It seemed as hot as a firecracker, but that wasn't the only cause for sweat in the Minich family's Hillside Drive backyard the day before the Fourth of July.

Four contestants looked on and eagerly awaited word as a judges panel of Brendan King, Upper Arlington City Council vice president; Melanie Circle Brown, Upper Arlington Historical Society executive director; and Pam Meadows, family and consumer sciences teacher at Hastings Middle School, critiqued creations for what was called the first Upper Arlington Cherry Pie Baking Contest.

In the end, first-time baker Patrick Toohey earned first place and a $25 prize.

Along with beginner's luck, his pie made its way to the winner's circle with a recipe that included 2% milk, butter, almond extract, sugar, salt, shredded coconut, sliced almonds and, of course, cherries.

"I feel like I shouldn't have won since it's my first one," Toohey said. "That was definitely my sister's more than it was me."

Toohey's sister, Emily, wasn't on hand for the July 3 contest, but he credited her helping to select a recipe and rolling the dough for his crust.

"The pastry was store-bought," Toohey said. "The feeling was, it was just a bunch of stuff I thought would taste good.

"We tried it out and it worked out great -- apparently."

Second place and $15 went to Christina Mockabee, who also was making her competitive baking debut. She used a recipe from her late grandmother, Billie Talarzyk, that had a crumble topping made from dark brown sugar and a crust that gained praise from the judges.

"This was a lot of fun," Mockabee said. "It was a great thing to have fun with during this crazy time of COVID.

"It was fun to take some of my samples to neighbors, and I would definitely do it again."

The contest was held by Fiona Minich and her mother, Donna.

Fiona Minich recently found herself back home after graduating in the spring with an art management degree from Ohio State University and an uncertain job outlook thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic also wiped out the Franklin County Fair, a tradition the Minich family has enjoyed.

Along with the demolition derby, the Miniches said the fair's Commissioners' Pie Contest was an annual favorite, and one in which either Fiona or Donna placed in the top three for the past 14 years.

"When I was a child, I went to the county fairs out in California with my parents," Donna Minich said.

"Then when (Fiona) was born and she was getting a little bit older, we started going to the fair.

"I think the cooking contests are our favorite thing to compete in. We put in quilts and photos and all kinds of antiques."

To fill the void, Fiona Minich took to a community forum on Facebook, where she solicited entries to a contest she hopes will be incorporated into Upper Arlington's July 4 celebration.

"We thought it would be a great event for the community," said Fiona Minich, who's competed in county fair baking and cooking contests since she was 8 and was the 2019 Commissioners' Pie Contest champion.

"I would love for it to be part of the Fourth of July celebrations for Upper Arlington."

The Miniches staged the judging among a small crowd of socially distanced spectators in their backyard.

Given that people had fun and enjoyed the pies, which were shared by all, they deemed the inaugural contest a success and hope it will grow.

"Many people were reticent to come out due to COVID," Fiona Minich said. "Although my mom and I cannot compete in this year's competition, we both love to put on events and help enrich the community.

"Hopefully, it'll be bigger next year."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate