Known as the Homemade Pie Capital of Minnesota, the city of Braham will once again be transformed into pie central on Aug. 2 for the 30th annual Pie Day event.
The event, which brings between 5,000 and 6,000 people into the city each year, according to Mayor Tish Carlson, takes a lot of planning, time and dedication of volunteers as well as support from the local community and businesses.
“We couldn’t do this event without volunteers or community support,” Carlson said. “To be celebrating 30 years of Pie Day and community is great.”
Over the past 30 years Pie Day has changed but has kept the focus of pies and community, according to pie baker Katie Blomdahl.
“Over the years we’ve been able to reach so many more people with social media and advertising, but we keep the focus on pies and volunteering for Pie Day,” Blomdahl said.
From pie eating to vendors, entertainment, crafts and even a car show, Pie Day has something for everyone.
From 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. downtown Braham will be lined with vendors, musical entertainment, a car and bike show, and additional attractions the whole family can enjoy.
The day will kick off at 7 a.m. with a pancake breakfast at Braham Event Center hosted by the Braham VFW; kids 3 and under are free; kids 4 to 10, $3; children 11 and older $7.
From 8-10 a.m. there will be a pie-baking contest for $5 per entry with proceeds benefiting the Braham Area Committee for Kids (BACK), which supports local youth.
“We have a few categories: fresh fruit, cream, baked single crust, baked double crust; age grouping, 8 to 12 years old, apprentice group, which is 13 to 17, and then we have a lifetime achievement, which is 70 and older,” said Karen Leniz, contest organizer.
On average there’s anywhere from 55 to 75 pies entered into the contest each year.
“We have three to four judges that come in that are professional bakers that are looking for pies with everything homemade from scratch,” Leniz said. “The judges really like unique pies, a lot of flavor.”
Leniz cautions contest participants against entering pies with anything not homemade.
“They take one bite and they will say, ‘Yeah, this is Pillsbury,’ or whatever the store brand is. The judges will be able to know if the crust is store bought, even if the whipped cream is not homemade,” Leniz added.
Medallions and cash prizes will be awarded to both first and second place winners in each category, while those pies are also entered into the running for grand champion, the best of the best, which will win a $50 cash prize along with a commemorative medallion.
Activities throughout the day include the Sweet As Pie Collector’s Car Show hosted by the North Country Hillbilly’s Car Club (free to participate, prize given out for viewers’ choice); a small quilt show in city council chambers at City Hall, featuring a quilt raffle and cash prizes for viewers’ choice; as well as a Kids and Berries tent, which provides free activities to children of all ages.
“This year at the Kids and Berries tent we will be doing different crafts throughout the day,” coordinator Patty Lind said. “We’re going to do natural mobiles, made out of items you can find outdoors, also tissue paper flowers, and we will have coloring sheets for younger children.”
This year will also feature a variety of vendors and a craft show from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Freedom Park. With over 100 vendors scheduled for the event, there’s bound to be something for everyone according to Carlson.
“We have homemade jewelry vendors, handcrafted vendors, knitting, wood carving, yard art, there’s a lot of different stuff from a lot of different vendors, including a lot of food vendors as well,” Carlson said.
The vendors will also be involved in the annual medallion hunt hosted by the Braham Chamber of Commerce, beginning at Braham Floral.
“There’s a lot of different business and vendors participating in the Pie Day Medallion Hunt,” Carlson said. “Participants follow the clues throughout Pie Day and the first one to find the medallion wins the $200 Braham Buck prize, which is as good as cash throughout Braham.”
Entertainment for the event will include a variety of performers throughout the city: at 10:30 a.m. Pie-Alluia Chorus will be at Elmhurst Commons and at 11 a.m. at Park Manor; Cambridge Corners Square Dance Club will be performing at the picnic shelter in Freedom Park from 1 to 2 p.m.
On the performing arts stage at West Central Drive and Second Avenue, will be the Chmielewski Funtime Band kicking off the entertainment at 10 a.m., followed by door prize drawings at 10:45 a.m. At 11 a.m. the Cambridge Corners Square Dance Club will perform followed by the Tusen Tack Variety and Fashion Show.
“The fashion show is something that Pie Day and Tusen Tack have partnered with for a long time,” Carlson said. “People go in and shop at Tusen Tack and then model their outfits and accessories on the stage. We’ve had girls in prom dresses and wedding dresses; it’s everyday people modeling the clothes and promoting Tusen Tack.”
The Performing Arts Stage will also feature a variety of additional entertainment throughout the day, concluding with the pie eating contests beginning at 5:30 p.m.
“There are three different levels for the pie eating contest: 15-year-olds and younger for the junior contest, 16-year-olds and up for the senior contest, and then the Braham Ambassador Challenge, which includes royalty that come to the event,” Carlson said. “The Braham Ambassador challenge is fun to watch and they’ve had a blast with it every year. This year we might break the number of participants we’ve usually had.”
Pies, pies, pies and more pies
Each individual pie is handmade by volunteers from the community at the Braham Area High School during a series of four baking days.
“Our pies are made over four days; from lard day, dough day, pie filling day and our last day is peach day,” Blomdahl said. “All of the pies are made by volunteers at the high school in a commercial kitchen. Sometimes people ask about if people bake the pies at home and bring them; that’s how it started, but now they’re all baked at the high school.”
In 2018 700 pies were baked and sold throughout the event, according to Blomdahl; this year the group is on track to make 730, which equals out to be approximately 5,840 slices.
Pies are sold by the whole as well as by the slice, while they last.
“We do all fruit pies, approximately 25 varieties, ranging from the basic apple, peach, blueberry, to a mixed berry, strawberry rhubarb, and we also make some very interesting ones too, like this year there’s an apple raisin curry or a peach pecante,” Blomdahl said. “Every year we’re trying to throw in new flavors. Whole pies sell for $15 and they sell fast. We start selling at 10 a.m. under the pie tent at the north end of the park, it’s the longest line at the whole park.”
As Pie Day celebrates its 30th annual event, founded in 1990, event coordinators attribute its success to the community and those visiting the city for the event.
“Pie Day is a festival and entertainment for the whole family,” Carlson said. “It promotes family and community in Braham and it’s the people that have kept it going and kept it successful. We are always excited to see how far people come from to get here — this year I know of two guys coming over from Wisconsin who have a six-hour drive to get here. It’s always fun to see people coming from all over to enjoy Pie Day.”
For additional information on Pie Day, visit www.pieday.com.
There will also be a free shuttle service available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., which will loop from Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Braham Event Center and St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church. Bus stops and pickups will also be at either end of Freedom Park.