Many Lexingtonians decided to kick off their Fourth of July celebrations Tuesday with a classic American combination: pie and ice cream, perhaps followed by an evening of live patriotic music.
Hundreds of people braved the ice-cream-melting July heat to enjoy a slice of free pie, a free scoop of ice cream and meet the winners of Lexington's Great American Pie Competition and Ice Cream Social. The pie competition serves as the kickoff event for the city's Fourth of July festival.
The winners of the pie contest were announced around noon, and the hungry mob that gathered underneath the Fifth Third Bank Pavilion streamed forward to receive their own free slice of some of the pies entered in the contest. After getting their pie, attendees also received a free scoop of ice cream courtesy of Sav's Chill.
"I never met a pie I didn't like," said Elizabeth Bagby, the chair of the city's Fourth of July festival, who also served, for the second straight year, as one of the contest's three pie judges.
Bagby said the pies are judged on flavor and appearance and are divided into three different categories: the Semi-Homemade Division (for pies with a few pre-made ingredients), the Made from Scratch Division, and one award is given to the entrant with the Prettiest Pie.
"It's really a lot of fun. It's a little bit of a sugar high, but there's so much creativity, there's so much warmth and love that goes into the pies," Bagby said. "I absolutely love it."
Stephanie Jeter, the first-place winner of the Semi-Homemade Division for the second year in a row, is building a local pie contest dynasty. She's entered every year since 2013 and has placed every year in one of the categories.
This year, Jeter won with a bourbon- and cherry-filled pie with a chocolate, all-butter crust topped off with a chocolate and regular dough lattice work. Jeter said she loves that she gets to share her pie-making hobby with her friends, family and — thanks to the contest — people in the community.
"That's my goal. It's to have a clean plate with every pie I make," Jeter said. "I hate to take home leftovers. I hate it when a pie goes uneaten."
Shelley Walker, of Winchester, entered two pies and her 5-year-old daughter Emily entered her very first pie — a raspberry pie with cutouts for the top crust.
"The only thing she didn't do was take it in and out of the oven," Shelley said of her daughter's pie. "But she did everything else herself."
Her hard work paid off. The raspberry pie was good for third place in the Semi-Homemade Division. Emily said she was "shocked" when she found out her pie had placed.
"Win or lose," Shelley said. "We just love making pies and coming out to things like this."
Lexington's Fourth of July festivities continued Tuesday evening with the annual patriotic concert by the Lexington Philharmonic on the lawn at Transylvania University. Independence Day kicks off Wednesday morning with the Bluegrass 10K at 7 a.m. followed by an all-day downtown celebration, a parade at 2 p.m., and at 10 p.m. the city's fireworks show will be launched off the top of the Lexington Financial Center (the Big Blue Building).
Great American Pie Contest Winners
1. Stephanie Jeter
2. Hannah Hunt
3. Emily Walker
Made From Scratch Division
1. Esther Tidwell
2. Allie Miller
3. Kristen Tidwell