July 8, 2012

Missourians aim for the world’s priciest pie

The sign that welcomes visitors reads “Rich Hill, Famous for the Fourth.”

The sign that welcomes visitors reads “Rich Hill, Famous for the Fourth.”

For more than 135 years, the small town in Bates County, Mo., has held an Independence Day celebration that has turned into a multiday patriotic event.

On Friday evening, the third day of this year’s Famous for the Fourth celebration, Rich Hill attempted to be known for something else — setting the world record for highest price paid at auction for a single pie.

Jerry Mumma, a Rich Hill farmer, paid $3,100 Friday night for a pie baked by his granddaughter.

That would appear to easily bust the current record of $1,700, although certification of such things can be trickier than making a crust that flakes just so.

Auctioneer Larry Hacker came up with the idea to break the world record after last year’s event, when Mumma bought his granddaughter’s strawberry rhubarb pie for $700 and then put the pie back on the table so he could buy it again for $2,600.

“I don’t know what possessed me to think about it, but I wondered what the world record was,” Hacker said. “When I found that out I said, shoot, ‘Last year would have set that record.’ ”

Hacker contacted the Guinness World Records committee last September but didn’t receive permission to attempt the record until November.

Making the process official was complicated. Because Hacker opted out of paying a fee to bring an official Guinness representative to Rich Hill, he was responsible for various means of verification — photographing and shooting footage of the auction, completing two witness statements and designating official event stewards, in addition to loads of paperwork.

The pie auction has become the largest fundraising event for the Famous for the Fourth celebration, which the city hopes to always keep free, said Natalea Hoeper, president of the celebration committee.

She said the event started pulling bigger names in music to the four-day event about four years ago. Although the economy could have threatened the program, people have stepped up with donations.

Hacker noticed the same trend with the pie auction. Bids skyrocketed in the last couple of years. Three years ago, $400 was the highest bid for a pie.

“It’s dramatically jumped,” Hacker said. “It’s what people are doing to keep this festival going.”

The funds from the auction and other fundraising events directly support next year’s celebration. Last year, $7,000 was raised from the pie auction alone. This year, the pie auction piled up about $10,000.

And while it is certain that next year’s event will have ample funds, the title of world record holder is still uncertain.

All documentation must be sent to the United Kingdom for review. If there is an error in paperwork or a failure to verify, the attempt could be disqualified.

“You are fairly certain that you did it,” Hacker said, “but to get their certification you have to wait for a reply.”

That could be up to four weeks.

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