I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream – especially if it’s ice cream at the Oklahoma State Fair Ice Cream Contest.
The competition is sponsored by Dairy MAX, a nonprofit dairy council representing hundreds of dairy farmers in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Kansas. Held in September at State Fair Park, the fair hosts a series of contests, from art and crafts to arm wrestling, cooking to photography. However, the ice cream contest is by far the most popular of all.
“The ice cream contest is one of the most popular contests at the fair because of the people’s choice component,” says Nancy Nortz, senior manager of creative programs, who organizes the contests. “Fairgoers can actually sample all the different flavors and then vote on their favorite.”
Contestants enter two quarts of their homemade cream. A panel of judges then chooses the best ice cream in three categories – vanilla, fruit and the mix-in category, which is a fan favorite.
“It always draws a lot of interest from the cooks as well,” Nortz says. “We get entries from all over the state.”
While the contest highlights the creativity of ice-cream makers, the organization also hopes to draw attention to Oklahoma’s dairy industry, says Susan Allen, Dairy MAX manager of industry affairs.
“Ice cream may bring people to the event, but dairy farmers are the stars of the show,” Allen says. “Without them, we wouldn’t have the milk we need to enjoy our favorite, frozen treat.”
Allen says the contest also helps spread the word about the dairy industry as fairgoers, contestants and even contest judges take the industry’s message back to their communities.
“We focus on our judges at the contest, and utilize the talents of our esteemed panel to not only choose their favorite entries, but to share their love of ice cream and these recipes, as well as tell the story of the dairy farmer after the contest is over,” Allen says.
Contest judges in 2016 included Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture Betty Thompson; Communications Director Bryan Painter of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry; Ron Hays, farm broadcaster; Melba Lovelace, columnist for The Oklahoman; and Gary Hawk, an Oklahoma dairy farmer.