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Pecan streusel pumpkin takes top prize in annual pie contest
pie contest pic1
Dave Dubyak slices into one of the 23 pumpkin pies entered in the annual pie contest to benefit the United Samaritans Foundations Thanksgiving lunch. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

While not a chef herself, the years Janice Virgo has spent working with the Institute of Technology’s culinary program students as a career advisor must have rubbed off.

Virgo’s pecan streusel pumpkin pie won first prize in the Dubyak Chiropractic pumpkin pie contest to benefit the United Samarians Foundation Thanksgiving lunch.

“I just bake for fun,” the Turlock native and resident of Delhi said. “In fact, I’d rather bake than cook.”

Virgo said she found the recipe for the nontraditional pumpkin pie to bake for a colleague at work as a birthday present. The pie was so well-received she decided to enter it into the contest — and bake one for her family to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day.

Virgo won $100 and the knowledge that her pies — each contest entrant had to submit two pies — will be enjoyed by those served through the USF’s Daily Bread lunch truck program on Thanksgiving Day.

Atwater resident Chrystal Sommers took second place, and a $50 prize, for her traditional pie. The five pie contest judges were convinced Sommers added a “mystery spice” to her entry, but she said the only difference between her pie and other recipes could be the addition of nutmeg and vanilla.

Twenty-three pies were entered into the 16th annual pumpkin pie contest and 134 more were donated to the USF — including 20 pies from a local Girl Scout troop and 50 from Ceres High School home economics students.

“It’s nice to serve (lunch truck participants) a traditional holiday dessert on Thanksgiving,” said USF director Barbara Bawanan.

 The judges of this year’s contest included Waterford Mayor Charlie Goeken, Hughson Mayor Ramon Bawanan, Hughson City Council member Matthew Beekman, Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden and USF supporter Jamie Peterson.

“Where else can you go to eat a bunch of pies?” replied Goeken when asked why he agreed to judge the contest.

Wasden said he had never eaten so many pies before Monday’s event.

“I was honored to be asked (to judge),” Wasden said. “It’s a great thing for the community and I’m grateful for all the pies that will feed people.”

David Dubyak said he will continue to sponsor the contest every year for the foreseeable future.

“It’s fun,” he said. “We enjoy getting to do this and I wouldn’t be able to get 800 pieces of pie otherwise.”

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.