HARRINGTON –– At exactly 3:30 p.m. Monday, the mechanical whine of ice cream makers filled the air as the Bob Messick Memorial Ice Cream Making Contest kicked off at the Delaware State Fair.
Each two-person team had 30 minutes to churn their perfect batch.
This year there were a total of 21 teams competing in the categories of fruit and other.
Father/son duo Joe and Zach Strachar of Harrington were back for their fifth year and chose to make orange this time around.
“We’ve made a bunch of different flavors for the competition like strawberry, lemon, orange/pineapple and cookie dough,” Mr. Strachar said. “We make ice cream all year long, it isn’t just a summertime thing for us.”
Ice cream making was shown to be a family tradition with almost every team made of families.
Marge Urban of Laurel worked with her great-grandson Keilo King on a batch of butter pecan.
“I’ve competed eight times and taken home a couple awards,” Ms. Urban said. “We make ice cream for every birthday and every party. It’s something we do all the time because everyone loves homemade ice cream.”
The key to making their butter pecan perfect was to put the pecans in only minutes before time expired.
Another multi-generational team was Kristin Mosier with her aunt, Ruth Abbate, of Salisbury and Milford respectively.
“I used to do it with my father and we did it for about 20 years together so now we’re on the third generation,” Ms. Abbate said while her first state peach was churning.
Ice cream will probably be sticking in the family for at least one more generation as Ms. Mosier’s young daughter Malori helped out.
The family toys with different flavors all year and Ms. Abbate said the flavor for the competition is decided at Easter dinner.
“We usually make two of our favorite flavors for dessert on Easter and from there we decide between the two which one we are going to make at the fair,” she said.
When the clock struck 4 p.m., it was time to stop churning and scoop samples to hand over to the three judges who decided on first, second and third prize in the two categories.
After the judges got their share, it was a free for all with fair attendees able to get a taste of any and all 21 flavors until the ice cream ran out.
Sandy Engle and a handful of her friends drove from Maryland to come get their sample of the homemade ice cream.
“We come every year,” she said. “It’s about an 30 to 45 minute drive which isn’t too bad but this is one of the best parts of the fair.”
She and her friends praised the double chocolate raspberry, chocolate bacon and peach.
Kathy Stocker of Harrington said she’s been to the fair almost every one of her 54 years but this was the first time she got to sample the homemade ice cream.
“This chocolate chocolate chip is like a little piece of heaven,” she said. “We just happened to time this just right so we got here in time to sample the ice cream.”
She said from the samples she tasted, peach was her second favorite.
As the ice cream began to run out and competitors packed up, everyone waited for the results from the judges came in.
“I think we had a very strong field this year with a lot of interesting flavors,” Richard Lindale of Houston, head of the competition said.
It was Mr. Lindale’s first year heading up the competition alone; he used to work as an assistant to Bob Messick who passed away last year.
“I guess you could say I kind of inherited the job,” he said. “But I’m 53 now and have been helping out here since I was a little boy. It’s always a fun part of the fair.”
Finally, the judges came out with the results and Mr. Lindale read them out to the crowd. First place in the fruit category was banana, followed by lemon cheesecake and banana peanut butter. In the other category, peppermint patty took home first place, followed by butterfinger in second and chocolate bacon in third.
“I’ve competed at least a dozen times and never won before, so this is pretty exciting,” Wendy Harpster of Milton, the creator of the winning banana recipe said.
She makes ice cream for every holiday and birthday and said her approach on Monday was to keep it simple, although the recipe for her winning ice cream seemed anything but simple.
“The key was to add a lot of bananas, there must be a couple pounds,” she said.
Other ingredients included heavy cream, half and half, pudding, vanilla, sugar and a tiny bit of lime juice.
“It’s always fun coming to the competition so, even though I hadn’t won before, I kept coming back and I’ll be back next year too,” she said.