SIDNEY – The Fremont County Fair is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its cherry pie contest this July 15  and caught up with the first winner Carole (Brown) O’Riley in Maryville, Mo.

O’Riley was a member of a Hamburg 4-H club and used Grandma Brown’s pie recipe, which favored the almond extract flavor.

She told Fremont County Extension the key to her success, however, was an orchard on the family farm. For the fair competition in 1963 none of the pie ingredients could be canned, store bought or prepared ahead.

Her family froze the orchard fruit in quantities needed for pie baking.

The first pie contest was sponsored by the pork producers and lard had to be a featured ingredient.

O’Riley was named the Missouri retired teacher of the year in 2016.

Here is the press release from Fremont County extension.

(Fremont County) – What began as a “Bake It With Lard” contest in 1963, the Fremont County Fair’s cherry pie contest and auction has grown to much more.

Carole (Brown) O’Riley was the inaugural winner of the event which will celebrate its 60th anniversary July 15 at the 2023 Fremont County Fair in Sidney.

O’Riley, who was a member of the Washington P.E.P. 4-H Club in Hamburg, was a junior in high school the year she took top honors.

Each pie made that year had to have lard as an ingredient.  O’Riley said it was a new statewide promotional event by local pork producers.

The lard contests in Iowa were set up to demonstration the value of lard as shortening.

The 1963 contest had 41 girls entered, O’Riley remembers.  It was a food and nutrition year for 4-H so baking pies was added. 


In the 60s, each year of fair had a different theme or main focus for 4-H entries.  She remembers taking sewing, cooking and canning over the years.

For her win in 1963, O’Riley received a trophy from the Thermogas Company of Shenandoah, a $15 cash award from Schnepp and Adams Insurance of Sidney, and $1 from the Fremont County Farm Bureau Women for using lard.

The runner-up pie baker received a gift certificate from Iowa Power and Light Co.

The runner-up pie baker was Linda Barrett also of the Washington P.E.P. 4-H Club.  Purple reserve champion ribbons went to StarAnn (McIntyre) Kloberdanz (3rd) and Janet (Smith) Gruber (4th).

Two or three girls prepared pies at a time on the stage at the south end of the McElroy Building.  The stage was removed when McElroy was recently remodeled.

Mothers helped bake the pies in the concession stand kitchen after 4-H’ers made them.

Each 4-H’er brought her own basket of ingredients and made everything from scratch.  None of the pie filling could be canned, store bought or prepared ahead.  Everything had to be measured at the fairgrounds.

O’Riley said she made a lattice crust for her winning pie, and it turned out beautifully.  She remembers making many many pies for practice that summer.

Pie judges the first year were employees from Iowa Public Power and Light Company.

The auction was outside in the show arena with Jesse McIntyre as the auctioneer.

O’Riley’s mother, Marjorie Brown, was her club leader when she and her sister were involved in 4-H.  She encouraged both of her daughters to get involved and try the pie baking contest.

Long-time Extension Director Richard McClure, now retired, said during the early years of the contest five bakers were asked to bake pies from each club in Fremont County.

He said there were extras from all over the county lined up to fill unused spots not taken by specific clubs.

O’Riley and her sister Dianna (Brown) Else, started in 4-H around 8 or 9 years of age.  “We started as soon as we could.”

Both girls had exhibits show at the Iowa State Fair and were very active each year they were involved.

The family lived on a farm and O’Riley made lots of desserts.  “We had a fruit orchard and used or froze them in the correct amounts for a pie,” she said.  “Back then, we couldn’t just run to the store for things we needed.”

The winning pie was from a recipe handed down by her Grandmother Brown.  “My mother really liked the almond extract flavor that the recipe used.”

When the new open class building was completed on the fairgrounds, Marjorie stepped into the open class superintendent role. 

With her two daughters no longer at home, so she had more time to help with open class.

O’Riley’s father, Dean Brown, was the Washington Madison Livestock boys club leader.  She also showed livestock at fair.

The family had Angus, Hereford, Brown Swiss and Jersey.  She thought the Brown Swiss were the best cattle to show.

O’Riley, who now lives in Maryville, MO, still bakes today when she has time.

Also in 1963, O’Riley was awarded the Iowa National 4-H Congress award for her entomology collections and rode the train to accept the honor in Chicago.

“4-H has instilled good leadership skills in me early on,” said O’Riley.  She also credits 4-H with making her more organized.

There was always an opportunity for socialization in 4-H and she still has many friends all over the country who she met through 4-H.

O’Riley was an elementary teacher in Maryville for 25 years and active in many educational and community organizations such as PEO, sororities and Lions Club.

In 2016, O’Riley was named the Missouri Retired Teacher of the Year.  “It was a humbling surprise.”

She met her husband, William, in college at Maryville. 

O’Riley has one daughter, but she did not participate in 4-H.  Several of her nieces and nephews were active in Nebraska 4-H.

The 2023 Fremont County Fair will celebrate its 60th cherry pie contest and auction July 15 at 6:30 pm on the main stage at the fairgrounds in Sidney.

All of the previous pie champions were invited back to be recognized at the 2023 fair July 15.

Photos provided by Iowa State University Extension. StarAnn (McIntyre) Kloberdanz of Shenandoah, still has her reserve champion pie baking ribbon for placing third at the 1963 Fremont County Fair.