Children participate in a sack race, cheered on by spectators, at the 2019 Pie Festival.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain photos

The Pie Festival. It’s the event that has brought fame and visitors — from both across the state and nationwide — to tiny Pie Town, N.M., for the last four decades, and it happens this Saturday.

After a two-year coro­navirus hiatus, organizers plan to make this one memorable.

Originally a community can­ning event, the Pie Festival has evolved into so much more.

About 60 souls live in Pie Town, the tiny wide spot on the Continental Divide in Catron County, but every year on the second Saturday in September the population mushrooms when hundreds and hundreds of visitors come for the annual Pie Festival in Jackson Park.

Besides, of course, lots of pie, the day will be filled with kids’ games, live music, horseshoe throwing, a horned toad race, the pie-eating contest, the crowning of the Pie Queen, plus dozens of vendors make this a can’t-miss tradition for the entire family.

Former proprietor of the Pie- O-Neer and one-time Pie Festival Queen Kathy Knapp will be sell­ing her legendary pie recipes in her just-published cookbook, and Pie Town homesteader Katherine McKee Roberts will be offering her book “From the Top of the Mountain.”

Another favorite will be performances by Buckshot and Moondog, American miniature horses who will be doing trick horse routines. They are part of the troupe of trick horses at Imagine a Horse of Pie Town.

A miniature horse performs for the Imagine A Horse Show at the 2019 Pie Festival.

Knapp and other bakers have been busy this week baking pies to sell at the pie shack. Knapp says this year pies will be in the form of empanadas. “Apple, cherry, blueberry and strawberry rhubarb,” Knapp said. “I just finished making my 507th pie for the festival.”

Pie Town has been known for pies since the 1920s, when World War I veteran Clyde Norman began selling dried apple pies at a little stand at the Continental Divide on U.S. 60, then known to travelers as the Coast to Coast Highway. A small community sprang up and residents started campaigning for a post office in “Pie Town.”

However, the U.S. Postal Service felt the name was beneath the dignity of the department, but locals persisted and in 1927 the name Pie Town became official.

Today’s Pie Town hosts three eateries: Does and Bucks BBQ, the Pie-O-Neer and The Ohana cafe.

Knapp says people from all over the country have stopped and eaten pie at any one of the cafés along Highway 60.

“I think it’s the novelty of it. Of finding a slice of pie in Pie Town, New Mexico,” she said. “People come through and see the sign and wonder if there’s pie here. Then they find out there’s a festival in September and come back. They’ve said they’ve tried to schedule time off from work for that.”

Activities start early Saturday.

For runners, the Pi-K Fun Run returns this year, with registra­tion bright and early at 8 a.m.

It’s a short 3.14-mile run/walk through town on old Highway 60.

Registration is $35 for 18-54. The run begins at 9 a.m.

The rest of the schedule:

  • 9 a.m. Kids Games registra­tion at the souvenir stand
  • 9 a.m. Registration for the Pie baking contest at the Pie Town Fire Station
  • 10 a.m. Live Entertainment — Terri Sunflower, acoustic originals, country covers
  • 10 a.m. Horseshoe Tournament sign up.
  • 10:30 a.m. Pie entries close
  • 10:30 a.m.-noon Kids games. Three-legged race, egg and spoon race, water balloon waddle and more.
  • 11 a.m. Pie judging
  • 11 a.m. Imagine A Horse Show.
  • 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Live entertainment — Gary Axen Duo, acoustic blues, folk and pop.
  • 12:30 p.m. Pi-K Run winners announced, kids games winners announced.
  • 1 p.m. Pie baking winners announced and silent auction for pies.
  • 1:30 p.m. Crowning of the Pie Festival Queen/King in the Pavilion
  • 2 p.m. Silent auction closes
  • 2-3 p.m. Live Entertainment — Shayne Vanlandingham Duo, acoustic rock
  • 2:30 p.m. Pie eating contests. $100 grand prize. ($25 for 2nd, 3rd, 4th)
  • 3:30 p.m. Horned Toad Race on the basketball court — BYOT (Bring Your Own Toad).
  • 3:30-4:30 p.m. Live Entertainment — Johnny Dean, acoustic rock
  • 4:30 p.m. Pie Festival Quilt raffle draw
  • 7-11 p.m. Pie Festival Dance with music by Suavacito, $8 per person, $15 per couple

This year’s festival is put together by the non-profit Pie Town Rising Stars, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization that was created to facilitate and promote the restoration, preser­vation and improvement of the historic community.

“We are raising funds to replace the old playground equipment dated back to the 1950s,” Knapp said. “Our goal is to raise about $70,000 to purchase and install new, safe and of course fun play­ground equipment for our kids.”

Pie Town is 83 miles due west of Socorro, or as pie baker Knapp says, “Pie Town is a long drive from anywhere, but it is well worth the journey!”