WILTON – Twelve-year-old Alex Pond of Farmington nervously bit his fingernails Saturday afternoon inside Nichols Expo, anxiously waiting for Blueberry Cook-Off judges to reach his entry.

It was the Mount Blue Middle School seventh-grader’s first foray into the world of cooking contests and the Wilton Blueberry Festival. It was also the youngster’s first time cooking with blueberries, creating what he dubbed, “Blueberry Mini Hot Dogs.”

Before entering, he said some people he knew told him they didn’t think his dish would go far in the second annual contest.

He was filled with self-doubt. But that all vanished the moment his dark blue, soupy hot dogs-and-berries concoction won first place in the main-dish category.

“I’ve never entered anything before, so I never thought I’d have a good chance. But I guess I proved myself wrong, just like I proved a lot of people wrong,” Pond said.

Grinning broadly, he clipped the large blue first-place ribbon to his blue T-shirt and pocketed the $15 prize money.

“I’ve been cooking since I’ve been about 3. I started cooking with my gram, Irene Lancaster. I was very surprised to win,” Pond said.

The stocky youth, who wants to be a chef on a cruise ship when he comes of age, said he enjoys making cakes, breads, brownies, muffins, chili and fish sticks.

The idea for his sweet but tangy creation – the secret ingredients of which he declined to identify – came from a cousin who served a dish of mini hot dogs one year at the Pond family Christmas party. He decided to try blueberries with it when he learned of Saturday’s contest.

Serving some to his dad, Bob Pond, Alex was already thinking about next year.

“I think I’ll try meatless chili, vegetarian chili,” he said, deep in thought. Dad just smiled proudly.

During and after the judging, the Blueberry Cook-Off and Chili-Tasting Contest attracted crowds of all ages. Like Alex Pond, other chefs hovered around the judging table, atop which sat 16 scrumptious-looking blueberry desserts and entrees and three chilis, simmering in large crock pots.

“The entries are all beautiful, just beautiful,” cooking contest co-organizer Leona Leavitt of Wilton said.

Sweet aromas from the 16 blueberry entries also overwhelmed the chili scents, but failed to conquer smells of other foods being sold indoors and fried orders and seafood sold outside the building.

Other winners were: Myriah Carreira of Phillips, awarded Best of Show and First Place Dessert for a mini blueberry cheesecake, Kika Nigals of Farmington, who took First Place Other for “Exploding Blueberry Muffins.”

Chili contest winners were Joe Donnelly of Ellsworth, awarded Best of Show and First Place Flavor with “Joe’s Game Day Chili,” and Kerrieann Harrison of East Dixfield, who got a First Place Presentation with “Dad’s Quick and Easy.” Rose Lam of West Farmington won First Place Originality for her “3-Bean Chunky Chili.”

People then mobbed the tables, donating $1 per sampling of pies, tarts, wild blueberry hand-made ice cream, muffins, crab cakes and wild blueberry tartar sauce, chili and Alex’s dish.

Preceding the cooking contests and a wide variety of other events was a large and loud, mostly motorized parade that traveled down Weld Road and Main Street. Supporting law enforcement was the theme.

Hundreds of people of all ages lined both sides of roads. Some were happy with the parade, others weren’t. Some also said they thought the crowd was smaller, too.

Shirley Barker of Livermore Falls wasn’t happy at all and let people around her know it.

“It was the most disgusting parade I’ve ever seen,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been so disgusted.”

“Gas is at $3 a gallon, and they’re wasting it all on this. Then there’s those ungodly screaming sirens,” she added, shaking her fists.

Her granddaughter, Stacie Cozart of New Sharon, said parades in the past two years were better.

“Back then, they had more homemade floats and horses, and people had to work on the floats. This was just mostly cars, tractors and trucks,” Cozart said.

Others, like Kelley Dyke of Wilton, thought it was a good parade.

“I was very impressed with all the very different police departments that showed up, and, the Shriners are always good,” he said.

Two-year-old Kylie McCutcheon liked what Barker didn’t, the firetrucks and their loud sirens, said mom, Leanne McCutcheon of Farmington, who enjoyed the marching bagpipers best of all.

After the parade, people drifted up and down Main Street checking out several food and craft vendors and activities.

Fireworks over Wilson Pond late Saturday night concluded the festival.


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