In the back corner of Memorial Hall you won't find any funnel cakes or french fries.
What you will find is homemade apple pie and piping hot soups.
The York Fair Culinary Corner has become a testing ground for local cooks and bakers alike to show off their talents and is a staple during the fair's 10-day run.
There are two contests each day of the fair, except for the final Sunday, and every contest runs like clockwork, thanks to a small, dedicated group of workers.
Wilma Skelton has been working at the Culinary Corner since the fair first started holding baking competitions in the mid-1970s. The first contest was sponsored by Crisco, with the company looking for a pie to represent each state and choosing the York Fair as a place to enter recipes for a Pennsylvania Shoo-Fly Pie.
More than 130 pies were
entered that year.
"It became such a big hit," Skelton said. "The fair director said 'This is something we need to continue.' And it just grew from there."
Favorites: Skelton, of Manchester, has not missed a year since. She is the face of the Culinary Corner and the de facto emcee, announcing the winners at every competition.
She said she enjoys seeing the exhibits and different dishes people create every year, especially those that are a little out of the ordinary.
"One year we had a baked bean contest, and I was looking through the recipes and one woman used butter in her beans. I found that really unusual."
Her favorite contests over the years have included the still-popular Ghirardelli Chocolate competition, as well as the Spam and SoftaSilk Cake Flour contests, both of which are now defunct.
Skelton recently retired after nearly 42 years at Voith Hydro, where she worked as the payroll manager. But even when she was working full-time, she always took vacation time in order to fulfill her duties at the fair.
Working together: Over the years, Skelton has formed friendships with contestants, judges and her fellow workers, including Loretta Golden.
Golden, who lives in Red Lion, is the superintendent of Horticulture Hall and has been overseeing the Culinary Corner since before it was a corner.
In the early days of the cooking competitions, judging took place in a tent outside Horticulture Hall, according to Golden. This proved to be a problem when an unexpected storm struck the fairgrounds and the tent collapsed.
"We had to rush to move the entries," she recalls. "It was a mess."
The competitions were eventually moved to their current home in Memorial Hall East.
Golden has seen her fair share of oddities in her years at the fair. One year a contestant caused a ruckus, arguing that all the entries in the apple pie competition hadn't been tested. Another year, a judge found an eggshell in a pie he was testing and had to leave the stage in order to dispose of it. But Golden believes the good always outweighs the occasional antics.
Participation in some of the competitions has declined over the years, Golden said. The annual Blue Ribbon Apple Pie contest used to see more than 60 entries. Now, it averages about 30. But Golden says that's just a change in the times.
Both Golden and Skelton agree that while they are at the fair to do a job, they would hardly call it work.
"Everybody pitches in, so I don't call it a hard job," said Golden.
Their jobs would be a lot harder if they didn't have a dedicated team that returns every year to help pick up some of the slack. June Ellis, Kay Wildasin, Andrea Sprenkle, Harriet March, Alice Leight, Linda Henry and Saundra Kelley have become an integral part of the Culinary Corner's success over the years, and it doesn't go unnoticed.
"My job is to make sure we have enough people, and the same people come back," Golden said. "It's a good group of people to work with. You can count on them."
-- Reach Kristen Putch at firstname.lastname@example.org