“Come one, come all,” shouted the Ticketmaster as he rallied the people of Meyersville, Tennessee. “Welcome to the 45th Annual County Fair!” He waved his hands and flashed a smile at the children passing through his ticket booth. One by one, he stamped each entry voucher and encouraged everybody to stay awhile.
Locals from all corners of town came to participate in the festivities. They were especially curious in the winner of the famous Betty Parton’s Bake Off. The crowd was beginning to form around a brightly colored striped tent; the sweet aroma of freshly baked goods swarmed the air. The contestants lined up in rows behind the tables that held their prize-worthy creations. Before the judging got underway, the locals could look around and even sample some of the delicate pastries.
“Now, this is what I've been waiting for!” exclaimed Farmer John Peters; his mouth watering as he picked up his first sample of Maybelline Foster’s blueberry crumble pie. He closed his eyes as he enjoyed every bite. “I see why you take it every year, Maybell.” he complimented and reached for another piece.
Maybelline gently grabbed ahold of Farmer Peters’ hand, stopping him from swiping some more. She smiled kindly at him, “now, John,” she frailly said, “as I do appreciate the compliment, you must save the samples for the other people.” Farmer Peters gave her a blank stare. Maybelline gave his hand a squeeze. “You know,” she released it, “how else am I supposed to win any more votes if you were to eat them all?”
Farmer Peters understood the hint and nodded. He tipped his hat and made his way down towards the next table. “You take care now, Maybell.”
“As do you, too, John!” she called after him.
“Alright, ladies and gentlemen of Meyersville,” started a husky fellow from the far end of the tent as he rose. He tapped the mic again, “it’s that time to begin judging for the Betty Parton’s Bake Off!” The crowd erupted in cheers and applause. “All late-comers please make your way over to Ms. Sue Crawford for registration.” Sue waved when her name was announced. “I will be your host and,” he cleared his throat with a slight proud chuckle, “center judge, John Beau Martin.” He rested his gaze beside him at the other two judges: an older woman named Sadie Watkins and a young gentleman named Brian Barley. Judge Martin nodded to each of them, “are you ready?”
Judge Watkins stood up, grabbing ahold of Judge Martin to steady her balance. Judge Barley stood up, too. The two of them nodded in unison as all three judges made their way around to each of the contestant. It was a long process, but the reward of tasting new foods piqued their interests to the point that they didn’t mind it. A couple of apple tarts here, and a few double-fudge brownies there, and a wide variety of pound cakes everywhere. The three judges made their way over to last year’s runner up Maybelline Foster.
“Hi, John Beau,” she greeted him with a smile.
“Maybell.” He tipped his hat at her and smiled back. “What do you have for us this year?”
“An improved recipe for my blueberry crumble pie.” Judge Martin reached down for one of the sample plates. “Oh, no, no,” she stopped him, “I specially saved this piece for you.” A twinkle formed in her eyes when she handed him the biggest slice.
Judge Martin happily took the plate and flashed her a quick wink. “Thank you.” He heartily bit down as Maybelline handed plates to the other judges, Watkins and Barley.
Baited in with blueberry crumble pie, they proceed onto the next contestant. They stopped in front of new entry Caren Hibble and her lemon pound cake. Caren waved her hands back and forth over her cake, proudly drawing them in with the perfection of the decorations. The judges looked over the cake, carefully taking in every detail.
Judge Watkins frowned slightly. She tapped Judge Barley on his shoulder, “what a shame,” she whispered.
Caren handed them their sample plates. It was silent at first before Judge Martin spoke out first. “This is great, Caren.”
The other two nodded in agreement and moved on.
Several rows of contestants later, and the judges were now ready to make their deliberation. Sue, now having the mic, rallied the crowd. “In just a moment, the judges would've made their decision on the winner and its runner ups.”
Chatter broke out among the people while they waited on the results. In the center of the tent, Sue lined up the contenders at a single table; each of them being Caren Hibble and her lemon pound cake, John Markle and his family’s homemade vanilla ice cream, Dean Shubard and her simple cinnamon-glazed doughnuts, Maybelline Foster’s blueberry crumble pie, and three others. Sue placed them beside their tasty submissions and went to check on the results.
“How were they?” Judge Martin asked his colleagues.
“They were alright,” said Judge Barley. “Could’ve been better.” He shrugged.
Judge Martin rolled his eyes at the young man. “What about you, Sadie?”
She was silent at first before replying. “I was quite fond of the glazed doughnuts.”
“We have to come to a unanimous decision,” urged Judge Martin.
“Well, who is your top choice?” questioned Judge Barley.
“That’s no surprise,” chimed in Judge Watkins, “his choice every year is always Maybelline, hoping that one day she would finally win.”
Judge Barley chuckled.
“Be serious!” said a frustrated Judge Martin. “We have a table of contenders and a crowd of people waiting for our final results.”
The judges deliberated some more when Sue came walking over. “Judges,” she interrupted, “are you all ready?”
“I think we have come to a final decision.”
On the stage behind the table of contestants, Judge Martin stepped forward. “Thank you all for coming out and being a part of the Annual Betty Parton’s Bake Off!” There was a wave of applause as he continued, “we have come to a decision, and—”
Judge Watkins suddenly fell over, grasping desperately at her chest. The crowd was in awe at the shocking scene they were witnessing. “Sadie!” yelled Judge Barley as he rushed over to her.
“Oh my God!” shouted Sue, covering her mouth.
“Is it a heart attack?” said a voice from the crowd.
“What’s going on?” said another.
“Somebody call for help immediately!” yelled Judge Barley.
The crowd erupted in a panic-stricken frenzy. Tables were being overturned, children were being grabbed and ran out of the tent, the whole event was in an uproar. Judge Barley cradled Judge Watkins in his arms as Judge Martin called for help over the loudspeaker.
“Sadie! Sadie!” shouted Judge Barley. “Can you hear me?”
Paramedics had arrived on the scene unfortunately a few minutes too late and find a deceased Sadie Watkins. The lead doctor commanded a few of his partners to fan out and question the witnesses while the rest of the team focus on the passed away judge. Something of interest had caught the doctor’s attention as he lifted her left hand to his flashlight. He took out a cotton swab from his emergency pack and examined a sticky substance that was underneath her fingernails … the remanence of blueberries.
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