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Roanoke Fall Festival begins

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parade: A rabbit is pulled through the parade by a girl with bunny ears and painted whiskers.
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pie: Heidi Warner works on eating her sugar cream pie. She ended up defeating her brother Noah this year.
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parade: Pete, Kelli Kreider’s dog, takes a moment to get hydrated before the parade. He was dressed as a toy alien from the movie Toy Story.
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PIE: GrantBaumgartner from the Roanoke Volunteer Fire Department takes a different strategy for eating his pie. Baumgartner said he was “voluntold” to take part in the contest, but went at it with a positive attitude, taking breaks between bites to laugh and look around in disbelief.
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TOSS: Lanie Nye tosses a ball toward fish bowls to try her hand at winning a prize. Her mother, Miranda Nye, said she and her husband moved to Roanoke in February. Miranda said her two daughters were looking forward to the festival activities.
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EAT: Contestants in the 6-11 age group go into eating their pies, face first.
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parade: Kelli Kreider dressed up as Jessie from Toy Story for the pet parade, along with her two sons, Kayden and Cole, who dressed as Buzz Lightyear and their dog, Pete who was dressed like a toy alien from the movie. Kreider’s mother, Judy Hoffman, said she remembers taking Kelli to the parade when she was younger, toting along a lamb one year and a dog another year.
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parade: A Minnie Mouse carried her cat through the pet parade Thursday evening.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

Watching Roanoke Fall Festival contestants fill their face with sweet treats was “easy as pie” for those watching from the bleachers, but for the contestants, it was a little more work.

The annual pie eating contest was divided up into three age groups and a celebrity round, drawing quite a crowd Thursday evening. Though some festival goers still paid visits to vendors and games, most were huddled together under the main tent to watch contestants eat sugar cream and pumpkin pies from Rolling Pin Bakehouse, Moose and Mollie’s, Nick’s Junction and Faith Lutheran Church.

Contestants were called up by name to their respective pie by Wane TV’s Alyssa Ivanson, then slipped into a trash bag bib, put their hands behind their backs and readied themselves to take on a pie.

Prior to each round, the pies were weighed and marked with the number of ounces. At the end of the round, the judges weighed the pie tins and whatever was left inside to figure out just how much was eaten. Whoever ate the most in ounces in each round was named the winner.

The first round included eight contestants ages 6-11. They were given three minutes and smaller pies and took on the task with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement.

Aubriana Jones, age 9, stood at the end of the table to take on her third year of the pie eating contest. She said she had gotten second and third place in years past, and felt like this could be her year.

To prepare for the endeavor, Jones said she made sure to limit how much she had eaten throughout the day beforehand.

The second round was five minutes but also had bigger pies. This round for 12-17 year olds included just two contestants this year, who were rather familiar with each other and the contest.

Brother and sister Noah and Heidi Warner had taken on the contest together before -- in fact, Noah beat his sister by one ounce the year before. Their mother, Natalie Warner, owner of Rolling Pin Bakehouse, was also the one leading the event this year.

The third round was for ages 18 and up, and had five contestants give it a try. Lastly, the celebrity round included Michelle Amick from American Legion post 160, Grant Baumgartner from the Roanoke Volunteer Fire Department and returnee Roanoke Principal Seth Parker. At the start, their pies ranged from Amick’s pie at 27 ounces up to Parker’s pie at 41.5 ounces.

Parker had taken on the contest for his first time last year and said it didn’t exactly go well. But he did find out that out of the two pie options -- sugar cream and pumpkin -- pumpkin pies weighed slightly less.

Even still, he wanted to try sugar cream again with a different mindset.

“This year I’m going with sugar cream and trying a different strategy … to eat as much sugar cream pie without throwing up as I can,” he said with a laugh.

At the end of it all, the winner of the 6-11 year old group was 10-year-old defending champion Dezmen Culver, who was awarded $10 for his feat. The rest of the 6-11 year olds also received a medal for participation.

Heidi warner took the lead this year, defeating her brother and walking away with a gift certificate from Moose and Mollie’s, Rolling Pin or Nick’s Junction.

Dezmen’s mother, Jennifer Culver, won for her second year in a row in the age 18 and up group adding another win for the family and walked away with a gift certificate.

Lastly, Principal Parker was able to redeem last year’s loss with a win and a gift certificate, resulting in quite a lot of cheering from all of the kids who waited around for the results.

Jennifer said she and Dezmen plan on coming back next year to see if they can win their third victories. She added they’ve lived in the area for several years and really enjoy attending the festival.

“It’s just fun for the kids ... to get out and have something to do,” she said. “Especially since school just started and ... it gives them something to look forward to. It’s a little reward for their hard work.”

Aside from this year’s pie eating contest, the festival also offered the community a lot of games and activities, including a pet parade Thursday evening.

Trisha Rager, a Fort Wayne resident, said this was her first year attending the festival. She brought her two kids, along with one of their friends and cheered them on while they took on some of the activities and games in the Kid Zone.

Roanoke resident Sara Perkins also brought her two kids to the festival. She said they come every year to have fun and support the community.

“We love the community aspect of the festival, it’s a good way to meet up with people that you see in town and have fun. We also like to support the community, support the different vendors,” she said.