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New competition at Oklahoma State Fair brings teamwork to the table

STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma 4-H’ers spend a lot of time preparing their exhibits for the local, county and state fairs. They’re perfecting that loaf of bread. Some of taking care of livestock they plan to exhibit in the show ring. Others are hoping to grow that perfect zucchini or pumpkin in hopes of bringing home a blue ribbon.

This year, 4-H’ers will have a new opportunity at the Oklahoma State Fair in September, and it means war – Cupcake Wars, that is. So, if fondant, buttercream icing and cupcakes are among your favorite things, this is a contest for you.

Lynda Latta, Ellis County Extension educator with Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension, said this new opportunity is a great way for club members to try something new and demonstrate their creativity, all while working together as a team. This is a bit different than the traditional fair exhibits, which are on an individual basis.

“Last year, Ellis County was invited to a tri-state event in Texas and I took two teams in the cupcake division. The contest consisted of the teams bringing all supplies and naked cupcakes to decorate with a given theme in a 20-minute time frame,” she said. “Following the decorating and a short interview, one of my teams was chosen as the winner. The kids really enjoyed it and I thought it would be fun to start this in Oklahoma.”

Latta said not only is it fun for the club members, but it provides them with another opportunity to work as a team, be creative and create an end product that demonstrates their teamworking skills.

“Youth enjoy learning about cooking. This has been demonstrated by the success of the 4-H Food Showdown contest. This new opportunity allows participants to learn about, enjoy and perfect decorating with frosting and fondant,” she said. “Everything we do in 4-H is based around learn by doing and life skills. The end result of this could mean an interest in culinary school or even developing a business later in life.”

Ellis County 4-H’er Anna Hope Sant’anna said a friend told her about the competition and decided she wanted to try it. An active 4-H’er for two years, the 12-year-old has participated in the Horse Club and other workshops, but thought she’d be interested in Cupcake Wars because she’d never had that experience.

“We practiced a lot before the competition. My aunt likes to decorate cakes, so she was able to give me a lot of tips,” Sant’anna said. “We made healthy cupcakes using recipes my mom found online. We made zucchini/chocolate, carrot and orange cupcakes. My grandma has a big garden so we were able to use vegetables from there.”

Sant’anna said her team included Arnett 4-H Club members Lena Givens, Jenna Thomas and Emma Knowles. Because they were competing as a team, she said the group had to rely on teamwork to get the job done.

“When we were practicing, we had to figure out who was best at different things. The theme for the competition was fall, so based on that, I learned I was best at making acorns out of fondant,” she said. “We all had a job to do. I’m really looking forward to competing at the Oklahoma State Fair.”

Not only was Sant’anna able to work on and improve her decorating skills, she said she also learned more than decorating and teamwork through this project.

“I think I learned a lot about confidence with this contest. I learned to keep going and if I mess up, I just have to start over or try to fix it,” she said.

Thirteen-year-old Ashton Suthers was a member of the other team from Ellis County who participated in the event in Texas. A five-year veteran of 4-H, she said she has always like baking and designing, so this contest was in line with things she liked to do.

Suthers, along with team members Brooklyn Clark, Taryn Slanagan and Fara Wayland, came up with the idea of making cupcake ice cream cones.

“This is basically a cupcake on top of an ice cream cone,” Suthers said. “We looked on the internet for ideas and found this one. My mom worked with someone whose daughter was a baker, so she helped me learn how to frost the cupcakes.”

Each team member had specific jobs to help ensure they were able to complete their decorating in the allotted time.

“It’s important to figure out what everyone’s job is and to work together,” said Suthers, who is a member of the Arnett 4-H Club. “If we didn’t work together as a team and everyone do their job, we wouldn’t have been able to finish in time. My job was to frost the cupcakes and clean up the area.”

Like Sant’anna, Suthers is looking forward to competing at the fair in September.

“The more opportunities we can provide to 4-H’ers now will help them in the future in relation to school and employment,” Latta said. “Skills they learn during Cupcake Wars, as well as all other 4-H work, can open doors for them now and later on down the road. Whether they’re seeking summer employment in their teens or looking to start up a business, they’ll have skills to put on a resume.”

Jim Rhodes, Northwest District 4-H program specialist and superintendent of the 4-H division at the Oklahoma State Fair, said this new contest is a great way to get club members to try something new.

“We encourage youth to step out of their comfort zone and try a contest that requires them to think, to plan and to reason. This new contest is just another way 4-H offers opportunities to have fun while learning and competing,” Rhodes said. “Depending upon this year’s success, we may expand the contest next year.”

Registration for the Cupcake Wars contest opens Aug. 1 and runs through Sept. 1. The contest is open to the first 30 teams to register through their OSU Cooperative Extension county office.

For more information about participating in Cupcake Wars at the Oklahoma State Fair, please contact Latta at 580-885-7775 or Rhodes at 580-233-5295.



Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
136 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)
405-744-5739 (fax)

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078

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