10-year state fair contestant
Gahanna's Radke is competition enthusiast
Nancy Radke places her caramel hazelnut chocolates on the judging table prior to competing at the Ohio State Fair on July 29. Buy This Photo
Fairs are a family tradition for Gahanna resident Nancy Radke.
She's such an enthusiast, Radke has taken this entire week off work to enter 10 contests at the Ohio State Fair.
"I like to support the fair," she said. "No. 1, it's agricultural-based. My dad was a farmer. It's also fun to compete, and it makes you better each year. I experiment with different types of food."
This year, she's entering a cobbler pie with a thin pudding glaze in the Pillsbury-sponsored pie-baking contest.
"I think I'll go with blueberries, but it might be a combination of raspberry and blueberries," she said. "I've entered the contest for 10 years."
Although first place has eluded her in the pie contest, Radke said, it's one of the categories she enjoys the most.
"I come in second every year," she said. "It's like, 'Oh, my gosh; I can't seem to win.' If you win, you go to a national contest. Maybe this is my year. I made strawberry-lemonade pie last year. Blackberry won. It comes down to what judges like."
Radke had hoped taste testers would appreciate her Ghirardelli Chocolates that she considers representative of the company's 160th anniversary.
Her chocolates didn't place this year, though.
Radke said winning first place isn't the ultimate goal, although she generally collects $500 annually in prize money.
"It's always a challenge," she said. "It's not about winning, but I try really hard to make something that hasn't been done before. Now hummus and that sort of thing is trendy. That gives me ideas."
Some of her past concoctions have included a Monte Cristo casserole with Spam and a gyro with Spam.
"I don't eat Spam ever, but when the fair comes around, I try all kinds of new things," Radke said. "My family likes the Spam."
This year, she entered two cheesecake categories and found success with one of them, placing second -- again.
"One is savory cheesecake like a cheese ball," she said. "I usually do well in that category."
Her second-place cheesecake featured a Thanksgiving theme, with a turkey-stuffing crust, spices such as sage in the cheesecake and topped with a cranberry glaze.
She also entered a neapolitan cheesecake.
Other entries will be judged later this week.
In addition to cooking categories, Radke has put her creative skills to the test in the Duck Brand Duct Tape Wagon Float competition.
"I made an Ohio state float for the parade," she said. "It was 4 feet high. I had a carnation and ladybugs, everything related to state symbols. I was going to do it again this year, but it takes a lot of time. They give you free duct tape."
Radke, who grew up near Wooster, said the fair always was a big deal in her native Wayne County.
"They have a super nice fair," she said. "Everyone enters the fair. They always have a huge turnout. It's very competitive."
Last year, she placed with a blackberry pie at the Hartford Fair in Croton.
"It was such a nice fair that I have to go back," she said. "I'm taking a peanut butter pie there."
She encourages anyone to enter a fair contest.
"Competition is always fun," she said. "I've done things I didn't think were good, and I ended up placing. You never know. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. It makes it fun."
Radke's entries are on display in the DiSalle Creative Arts Center at the Ohio State Fair, which runs through Aug. 5.
For more information about the fair, go online to ohiostatefair.com.