Inside the Creative Arts building at the State Fair of Texas -- past the butter sculpture, and near the jars of jams and pickles and salsas -- is Peggy Garmon.
She’s towing a wagon full of platters of homemade candy.
“It’s called mashed potato candy and it’s made with mashed potatoes and pecans and coconut, and then it’s dipped in almond bark,” Garmon says.
Garmon is here from Rowlett to compete in the State Fair’s annual Candy Contest.
She threw together her mashed potato concoction at the last minute -- at 6:30 a.m. this morning -- when she remembered she could submit up to five entries.
“My brother said, ‘Why are you doing that?’ And I said, ‘I’m so scared I’m not going to get a ribbon.’ I may not either, but I’ve done five,” she says, laughing.
For these cooks, it’s all about the ribbons. And Garmon has won her fair share through the years.
She’s one of 40 chefs who showed up for today’s contest, including eight-year-old Catherine Palmer of Wylie. Catherine and her six-year-old sister Clare are the youngest chefs today. (Contestants must be six years or older to compete.) Catherine made mints, which are bright green and oval shaped.
“I rolled them up into little straws, you know, and then I dipped them in chocolate,” she says.
Their mom, Emily Palmer, is also in the contest. She’s been competing since she was little -- even younger than them.
“I often say to them, this is what I did when I was a kid. And they’re always looking forward to the fair because of this. They like to make food and bring it -- and hopefully win something,” Palmer says.
Palmer’s mother, Kim Ritchie, says she let Emily compete as soon as she could write down the recipes. Back then, there were no age restrictions.
“I probably would have quit if it had not been for the next generation coming on,” Ritchie says. “I started in 82 when I didn’t have any kids, and watch them all grow up out here. Everybody knows them and loves them, all of that.”