AUBURN — It was a match made in pizza-lover heaven Saturday afternoon as more than 500 people piled into the crowded Auburn Middle School cafeteria for the first annual Lewiston-Auburn Pizza Challenge to support the Edward Little Music Association.

“My favorite thing about the pizza challenge was that we got to keep going around and trying all the different pizzas so we could vote,” said 8-year-old Hailey Stevens of Auburn, who came to the fundraiser with her family.

The young pizza connoisseur was perfecting her deep dish palate by the end of her trip around the cafeteria to all nine pizza-makers competing for the title of “Best Pizza in Lewiston-Auburn.” Her vote went to Heathco’s Pizza in Auburn because of the variety store’s deeply cooked pizza and strong flavors.

“And I normally don’t like strong-flavored food, but I really liked this one,” the young food critic said with a simple shake of her head as she went to cast her vote.

In the end, George’s Pizza of Auburn walked away with the top honor. The contest was based on only cheese or pepperoni pizza, but participating vendors highlighted other specialty items and provided information such as menus and coupons to promote their businesses.

“I was in all the choirs at Edward Little all through high school,” said Beth Hanson, 31, whose family owns George’s Pizza. “So the fact that it’s supporting the programs is a really great thing for me.”

Event organizer Dan Philbrick, a member of the Edward Little Music Association, said he wanted to bring back the once-popular fundraiser that supported the Abused Women’s Advocacy Project in the early 1990s. Pizza-makers from the Twin Cities provided dozens of pizzas for this fundraising event, which raised more than $1,500.

Organizers were hopeful that 200 people would turn out for the event, Philbrick said. By the end of the afternoon, they were ecstatic to learn that about 500 people had come through the doors.

“This is way better than expected,” said Madi Elliott, 14, a freshman member of the Edward Little Marching Band. “Usually we don’t have a great turnout, but this is really surprising.”

In addition to the nine local vendors, Rooster’s — a coal-fired pizza joint in Augusta — came to the event as a non-competitor. Philbrick said that one of the restaurant’s co-owners lives in Auburn, heard about the event and wanted to come out to support the music program while introducing people to their specialty pizzas.

Michael Dixon, 63, of Auburn said he came to support the association — and, of course, to get a good slice of pizza (or two or three). He said his daughter used to be in the chorus and he felt it was important to support the association that does so much for the students.

“There isn’t enough money in the school budget to support it, so organizations are challenged with coming up with creative ways to fund operations,” Dixon said. “And this is a really nice alternative to the bottle drive route.”

The association supports the music programs at Edward Little High School and Auburn Middle School. According to Philbrick, the association helps cover travel expenses and new instruments, and provides scholarships for graduating seniors and students interested in outside vocal or music lessons, among other expenses.

“It tells me that the community likes pizza and they know what the cause is for and they came out to support something that really needs support,” Philbrick said.

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