Deadline gets closer for Tukee Fest baking contest entrants

Alyssa Whiteley displays a booth number and Peoples’ Choice ballot that will be used at the Baking Contest during the Tukee Fest Oct. 1. (Geri Koeppel/AFN Contributor)

The organizers of the 14th annual Tukee Fest Rockin’ in the Park have sweetened the deal this year by adding a baking contest and bake sale to the popular community gathering.

The free Tukee Fest, featuring live music, a carnival, and sales of concessions, wine and beer, takes place 5-9 p.m. Oct. 1 at Ahwatukee Park, 4700 E. Warner Road. The baking contest and bake sale will be held from 6-7:30 p.m.

“The public can taste for free,” said Alyssa Whiteley, assistant director of the Ahwatukee Swim, Tennis and Events Center, which hosts the festival. “Each booth will have sample cups of their baked goods.”

Tasters can cast their vote for the People’s Choice award, and bakers can win anything from a tote bag to a $75 gift card.

Bakers must use King Arthur Flour, which is providing the prizes, and must bring 100 one-inch cut baked goods for sampling and 24 full-sized servings for the sale.

More rules are online on the center’s website, and you can email for details or to register. The deadline is Sept. 27 or until 25 bakers sign up.

Each sampling booth will display a number that corresponds with its baked goods elsewhere at the sale, so if attendees want more of a tasty treat, they can easily locate it.

Karla Herder of Ahwatukee is going to enter the contest with a recipe for toffee bit cookies she found online that she’s trying out for the first time.

“I enjoy baking, and usually I’m baking for my family and friends,” she said. “It brings me a lot of joy to share.”

Herder added, “When I found out that there was also a nonprofit community service-type component to this baking contest, it sounded like a win-win.”

Proceeds from the full-sized serving sizes of each booth’s desserts or baked goods sold at the bake sale will benefit Student Community Outreach, which helps at-risk youths and families.

Five local high school students—including Whiteley’s sister, Abby Gerdis, who is now on the board of directors—co-founded the nonprofit in May 2020.

Student Community Outreach partners with schools and agencies, including assisting Homeless Engagement Lift Partnership (H.E.L.P.) with H.E.L.P. Snackz.

It collects and packages 4,000 to 5,000 snack bags three or four times a year for students in 22 school districts in the Valley who get free and reduced meals.

“This is for the weekends when they don’t have that option,” Gerdis noted.

Student Community Outreach also is in charge of the Superfood Bowl, a food drive competition between Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high schools. Last year, it collected over 200 boxes of Thanksgiving food for families, mostly in Tempe Union and Kyrene school districts.

Tukee Fest also benefits the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee, which gets a portion of the sales from wine and beer.

The gathering usually attracts 600 to 800 people, but organizers hope this year will bring out even more thanks to the bake sale.

Herder said she’s never watched any baking shows on TV or entered a baking contest before, though she did once win a chili cook-off at work.

She urges everyone to come out and sample, and said it’ll be fun experience even if she doesn’t win.

“It’s a great way to try different things without having to invest the time themselves,” she said. “Who knows, they might find their next favorite dessert. I especially encourage the kids [to enter]. I would love to see the next generation of bakers represent.”

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