The lines were long at Pie Town’s renowned pie shop Saturday during the 40th anniversary Pie Festival.
The Pie-O-Neer staff were quick to help customers at the front of the line and quick to serve up delicious pies — whether you ordered pumpkin chocolate chip or lemon blackberry.
Quemado third grader Sage Hendricks was there to try a recipe she had a hand in making — Marshmallow Swirl. Third graders in Quemado submitted recipes for consideration at the Pie-O-Neer.
Hendricks’s group was one chosen and their suggested Marshmallow Swirl was available for purchase Saturday afternoon.
Her friend Gracie Carver’s group was also selected: S’more Pie, but by the time the friends made it to the Pie-O-Neer, S’more Pie was already sold out. They hope to come back when it’s available, said Henricks’s mom Rebecca.
Just behind them, a boy named Rayden waited in line for pie with a horny toad held gently in his hands. The horny toad was part of another Pie Festival activity — a distinctly New Mexican activity, although entirely un-pie-related — the horny toad race, a popular attraction at this year’s festival.
Across the street from the Pie-O-Neer as merchants and musicians entertained visitors, a crowd gathered around a chalk circle on the ground for the horny toad race.
Kids caught their own toads in preparation for the race, some near the size of a quarter and others bigger than a fist. The toads were numbered, and deposited in the center of the circle. The race began. First toad to exit the circle would be declared the winner. Two tiny toads made their way toward the edge first. The crowd cheered as the first tiny toad crossed the finish line.
Beth Dirmeyer, 6 going on 7, entered her toad Starlight.
Dirmeyer caught Starlight in her own backyard in Datil.
Her aunt has lizards, so she borrowed worms to catch her toad. The race wasn’t quite what Beth expected. She anticipated a straight racetrack in the grass, but the horny toad race was still her mom Judith Dirmeyer’s favorite part of the day.
“I’ve been coming since I was a kid and it’s great,” said Judith Dirmeyer. “I’m glad they brought it back. You see people. Even though it’s a small community, we don’t always get to see each other all the time, so it’s a great time to reconnect.”
Another part of the festival that keeps visitors returning? Pie eating.
Amado Chaidez, 15, won the youth pie eating contest for the fourth year in a row. His tip for speed pie eating is to flip the pie and get the pan out of the way.
The best part of the contest is of course the pie, said Chaidez, but the smell of pie will linger for the next few days.
Chaidez is following in his father Martin’s footsteps. While Martin didn’t compete this year in the adult contest, he has taken first place the last three years.
Amado’s younger brother Alex plans to follow in their footsteps and hopes to win next year.
According to 2006 Pie Queen Nita Larronde, there were four categories in this year’s pie eating contest. There were 16 competitors in the adult category, but only one in the youngest age range, 5 and under.