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The first round of 16 pies in The Daily Republic's Palace City Prize Pies contest. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

PALACE CITY PIES: Judges gobble down to Elite 8

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Life Mitchell,South Dakota 57301
The Daily Republic
PALACE CITY PIES: Judges gobble down to Elite 8
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Anticipation and blood sugar levels were high Thursday as judges named the first round of winners in the inaugural Palace City Prize Pies baking contest.

Five judges evaluated 16 pies in eight rounds at The Daily Republic. Event organizers drew names to determine the matchups in the bracketed tournament.

Winners were Rita Baumgart, with a coconut creme pie; Bonny Sperlich-Warnke, with a lemon meringue; Marlys Paulsen, with a strawberry rhubarb; Tanja Cox, with a chocolate banana pie; Sharon Christensen, with a cheddar pear pie; Jordan Muntefering, with a bourbon sweet potato pecan pie; Jennifer Warren, with a peach pie; and Joanne Schorzmann, with a peach pie.

They will advance to the next round, which will be judged Sept. 12 at The Daily Republic.

Creations ranged from traditional peach pie to more adventurous offerings like salted caramel apple and mint brownie.

Judges were Sean Moen, food services director for the Mitchell School District and owner of OverTime Steakhouse and Lounge; Laura Senska, an advertising and marketing consultant at The Daily Republic and a culinary school graduate; Seth Tupper, editor of The Daily Republic; Megan Sabers, owner of Tickled Pink; and Korrie Wenzel, publisher of The Daily Republic.

Contest rules simply dictated each contestant bake a pie; contestants may not use the same pie twice as they advance through the first three rounds, although they will be allowed to use an earlier recipe for the championship round.

The pie matchups were random, and judges did not know who baked which pie until after results were announced. Pies were judged on five categories: Appearance, filling/crust, flavor/taste appeal and originality/presentation. Judges wrote comments and conferred with one another as they evaluated each pie. The most common comment: "Wow."

Each pie could earn a total of 500 points, and some of the matchups were decided by as few as two points.

As they narrowed the competition to eight pies for the next round, judges said they anticipate next week's competition to be even tougher.

"We've got some heavy hitters in this contest," Wenzel said.

Sixteen businesses are sponsoring the contest. The four major sponsors are Central Electric Cooperative, Tickled Pink, Mitchell Technical Institute and The Daily Republic.

Each contestant is paired with a sponsoring business. The business whose baker wins will receive free advertising in The Daily Republic.

The first-place winner will receive $400 cash, a $50 gift card from OverTime Steakhouse, a $50 gift card from Little Red Hen and a six-month subscription to The Daily Republic.

Second place will receive $75 cash and a $50 gift card from Bonnie's DeKor, and third and fourth places each will receive $50. All contestants will receive $25 for entering.