Call the Olympia Pie Bakers Guild a gaggle of pie enthusiasts who just so happen to be community champions.
They’re the hosts of the annual Pie Fest, held Saturday (Feb. 28) at the Olympia Center. The event is part pie baking contest; part pie eating extravaganza and community fundraiser.
Kathy Kinard recalls when the pie guild formed in 2008. It was in the aftermath of a pie contest that Kinnard entered — and lost. Throughout the experience, Kinnard kept thinking, “we could do better.”
So she did.
After posting a community event notice, to her surprise, eight people showed up for the very first Olympia Pie Bakers Guild meeting. What followed was several years of pie baking, fundraising for the Thurston County Food Bank and Senior Nutrition Program, and countless exchanges of pie baking tips.
Kinard explained how the organization formed and what participants can expect at this year’s pie fest. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: What exactly is the Olympia Pie Baker’s Guild? Is it like Mensa for bakers?
A: In the beginning, the focus was pie. We didn’t know each other. We wanted to be together because we all had this interest in baking, pie specifically. We also had this sense of social justice.
Q: So you started a combination pie contest and fundraiser?
A: We knew we didn’t want to sit around and talk about pie recipes. We wanted to do something, bringing together our love of pie and the community.
Q: Tell readers a bit about how Pie Fest got started.
A: It took that group a few meetings to figure out what we wanted to do. We thought, ‘Let’s do this fun thing and throw a pie festival and make it a fundraiser for the food bank.’ It was an interesting coming together and now it’s friendship and fun.
Q: What are your conversations about pie like?
A: We really just love to talk about baking and the temperature of the butter and how cold the bowl should be and what kind of flour do you use and what kind of rolling pin do you use, all those nerdy pie things that people would dissect.
Q: Do you have to like pie to belong?
A: No, we actually have one (member) in particular who is way more of a bread baker.
Q: Who are the members?
A: Cheryl Bayle, Helen Kramer, Andrew Poultridge, Ginny Robinson, Earle McNeil, Andrea Ballard, Mary Beth Ricks and myself.
Q: What can pie contestants expect at the contest?
A: My goal is to greet everyone who walks in the door. (Back when I entered that pie contest), I spent so much heart and soul to make that pie and there was nobody standing there to welcome me. It’s important that the contestants get recognition. Every pie makes $50 for feeding others.
Q: How many people enter pies in the contest?
A: The first time we had 25 people enter 50 pies. Last year we had 60 people enter the contest. That was 120 pies on top of 25-40 donated pies. It’s just grown, but I still fear we won’t have pie. One year we ran out before the event ended.
Q: So it’s imperative that contestants show up with pies?
A: Yes, very. If they didn’t enter, we wouldn’t have anything to serve.
Q: Do you ever worry that’s going to happen? That there will be no pie and pie chaos will break out?
A: That’s my nightmare starting Monday until the event.
Q: Why should amateur pie bakers enter the pie contest?
A: It’s a bucket list thing, come on down and you can check it off this year.
Q: What will readers find at Pie Fest?
A: It’s totally fun, it’s loud, it’s crowded, there’s good music and a good emcee.
Q: Can you tell readers about the charities that you help fund?
A: Yes. The Thurston County Food Bank. The number of families accessing the bank goes up every year. There are certain times when the food bank is hard hit. The funding we provide through this event is all discretionary funds. The food bank can purchase whatever they need for households.
The more touching part is the Senior Nutrition Program, which serves lunch Monday through Friday to some of our most vulnerable citizens. They had to stop serving lunch on Fridays because they were low on funding. It was closed for a number of weeks. These are both organizations that have a direct impact daily on someone’s life.
Q: What are the most memorable Pie Fest experiences?
A: Last year, or the year before, a woman who was 102 entered the contest. She came down with her daughter and her daughter’s husband. It was a beautiful pie. She got second place I think. The best part for me is greeting the people, and having people tell their story. It’s the best two hours of my year.