HARRISBURG – Visitors to the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show can get their just desserts for free.

Hundreds of Pennsylvania’s finest bakers will create beautiful and delicious entries for the agricultural extravaganza’s seven baking contests. After judges taste and pass judgment on the cakes, pies, cookies and sticky buns, free samples are given to the public.

The contests, considered the Super Bowl of Pennsylvania baking, offer winners colorful ribbons, cash prizes and, of course, bragging rights.

Four of the competitions have restricted entries. Only those who are certified first-prize winners in specific baking contests at Pennsylvania’s approved agricultural fairs in 2017 may enter the apple pie, chocolate cake, chocolate cookies and angel food cake competitions.

Three contests are open to any Pennsylvania baker — thumbprint cookies, whoopie pies and sticky buns.

“There’s a lot of excitement vying for the state championship, the big prize and the prestige of winning top prize at the Farm Show,” said Kevin Bieber, who for nearly 20 years has coordinated the apple pie and angel food cake contests. “The bakers are excited. The audience keeps a close eye on the judging. A lot of friendships are made at these contests.”

Bieber said that usually 70 to 80 apple pies and 65 to 70 angel food cakes compete at the Farm Show. “The apple pies are more and more creative,” he said. “So are the angel food cakes. Some are as fancy as wedding cakes. There’s nothing boring about these contests.”

The baking contests are held in the Farm Show Family Living Department in the Main Exhibition Hall behind the Maclay Street lobby. Contestants are encouraged to be creative, but they must bake their entries from scratch (no mixes allowed), then bring them to the show in accordance with each contest’s rules and deadlines.

Each contest has its own panel of judges, who sample each entry, evaluate it and finally pick the winners.

Here are the contests in order of when they will be held:

Saturday, Jan. 6

Blue Ribbon Apple Pie Contest, 10 a.m. Saturday. This contest, sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs and the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program, is open to state residents who are certified first prize Blue Ribbon Apple Pie contest winners at an approved Pennsylvania agricultural fair during the 2017 fair season. Pies are judged on flavor, filling consistency, doneness and moistness, crust color, flavor, texture and doneness and overall appearance; as well as creativity. Prizes are: $500 for first, $250 for second, $100 for third and ribbons for fourth and fifth places.

PA Preferred Junior Baking Cookies, Brownies and Bars Contest, 2 p.m. Saturday. This contest, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture PA Preferred and the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs, is open to Pennsylvania youths (8 through 18) who are certified first prize winners in the PA Preferred Chocolate Cookies, Brownies and Bars contest at an approved agricultural fair during the 2017 fair season. Entries are judged on flavor, texture, creativity and inside and outside characteristics. Prizes are $250 for first place, $100 for second, $50 for third and ribbons for fourth and fifth places.

PA Preferred Chocolate Cake Contest, 4 p.m. Saturday. This contest, sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs, is open to Pennsylvania residents who are certified first prize winners in the Homemade Chocolate Cake Contest at an approved agricultural fair during the 2017 fair season. Entries are judged on flavor, texture, frosting and inside and outside characteristics. Prizes are $500 for first place, $250 for second, $100 for third and ribbons for fourth and fifth places.

Sunday, Jan. 7

Incredible Angel Food Cake Contest, noon Sunday. This competition is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Egg Farmers and the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs. It is open to first prize winners of an angel food cake contest at an approved agricultural fair during the 2017 fair season. Entries are judged on creativity, flavor, smell, taste, texture, lightness and overall appearance (including surface, size and color, topping, icing and decoration). Prizes are $500 for first place, $250 for second and $100 for third.

Thumbprint Cookie Contest, 4 p.m. Sunday. Sponsored by Christina Maser Pantry of Lancaster, this contest is open to any Pennsylvania resident. Only jellies, jams or preserves are permitted in the thumbprint. Entries are judged on uniformity, texture and flavor. Prizes are $150 for first place, $100 for second and $50 for third.

Tuesday, Jan. 9

Pennsylvania’s Greatest Whoopie Pie Contest, 4 p.m. Tuesday. This contest, sponsored by Good Food of Honeybrook, is open to any Pennsylvania resident. Whoopie pies will be judged on flavor, smell, taste, texture and smoothness of filling. No decorations are permitted. Prizes are $500 for first place, $100 for second and $50 for third.

Friday, Jan. 12

Sticky Bun Contest, 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12. This competition, sponsored by Golden Barrel Baking Products, is open to any Pennsylvania resident. Prizes are $500 for first place, $100 for second, $50 for third and ribbons for fourth and fifth.

For more information on the baking contests, visit www.farmshow.state.pa.us.

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