Carbondale Mountain Fair cake contest honors Maureen Nuckols’ legacy
Post Independent intern
The cake judging tent was adorned in all things purple on Sunday at the Carbondale Mountain Fair. Purple was the favorite color of Maureen Nuckols, a longtime cake judge who died from cancer earlier this year.
Despite losing their friend, the cake judges were all giggles and costumes, as per usual, as they carried on Nuckols’ love of joy, life and cake.
“She was so wonderful,” Felicia “Flash” Trevor Gallo said of Nuckols. “It’s bittersweet. She was so strong and healthy the last cake contest.”
Gallo has been judging cakes at Mountain Fair since 2003, making her the most experienced judge on this year’s panel. Behind her sat 15-year-old Xavier Rasier, the youngest cake judge Mountain Fair has seen yet. He stepped in to occupy an empty judging seat and served as judge-in-training.
“I’m just eating cake and giving them my opinion,” he said.
A seat was also occupied by Carbondale fireman Jake Spaulding, whose birthday conveniently fell on the same day as the cake contest. Spaulding said he had been fighting the Lake Christine Fire for a 19-day shift, and then was sent home, and ended up at Mountain Fair with all the birthday cake he could want.
There were several cakes that caught the eyes of the judges, but one judge in particular brought a lifetime of cake-loving with her to the competition. Aliya Howe judged for the first time this year, but she is no stranger to appreciating good baking.
“I come from England, which is definitely a tea and cake society. I mean, Brits know about cakes,” she said.
While the Mountain Fair cake contest usually judges cakes in three categories, this year they were judged in only exotic and regular cake. One favorite, which won third place in the exotic category, was a coconut surprise cake with a purple center baked by Jacqulynn Piffer. The purple center was meant to be a tribute to Nuckols.
“I bake cakes for my kids’ birthday parties,” Piffer said. “April [Crow-Spaulding], who runs the contest, is a good friend of mine, and she saw pictures of my kids’ cakes on Facebook, and she heard I have really good-tasting cakes, and she asked me to join in.”
The first-place winner of the exotic category, which also won Best of Show, was a ginger peach Mountain Fair goddess cake baked by Kelli Welsh. The cake had the judges ooh-ing and aah-ing from the get-go at the beautifully crafted chocolate goddess that sat atop the perfectly-shaped, round cake. It by far beat all the other cakes in appearance, and also had a flavor light and fruity enough to beat the others in taste and texture as well.
The winner of the cake category was a summer fun s’more cake baked by Melissa Collum. It had a lightly-toasted marshmallow cream top and a chocolate s’more center, which made it a close second to the ginger peach cake.
After the contest, slices of all the cakes were sold, and the first-place winners each won a $25 prize. The tradition, and Nuckols’ legacy, will carry on next year at the 48th annual Mountain Fair.
The 47th installment concluded Sunday with the men’s woodsplitting competition, and musical acts the Crags from Durango, and the popular ska band the Dendrites, from Denver.