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4-H baking judge uses 50 years of experience cooking to select winners

ALBUQUERQUE - Connie Elmore knows the thrill a 4-H member gets when one of their Expo New Mexico state fair entries wins a ribbon. She collected quite a few for her projects when she was a youth in the late-1940s. Since then she has been a judge helping to select the best of baked goods entries.

Connie Elmore, left, and Tamara Rowland, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension home economist 4-H agent in Bernalillo County, select the best brownies in the 4-H baking competition at the New Mexico State Fair. (NMSU Photo by Jane Moorman)

I started right here in 4-H and I still bake a lot," Elmore said. "Learning to bake while in 4-H began a life-long enjoyment."

Her association with the state fair has continued over the years. Besides being the 4-H baking judge for more than 40 years, Elmore has worked full-time for the fair board since 1970 and now is the fairground landscape supervisor. Two days before the fair opened, she left getting the flowering plants ready to be planted on the grounds to judge the baked goodies.

"When you have baked as much as I have you get to where you can visually tell if something is done right," she said as she worked her way along a sea of baked goods that filled 40 feet of tables in the 4-H Exhibit Hall. Several New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension home economist 4-H agents watched as she judged.

She squeezed a yeast roll and watched as it sprang back from the pressure of her finger. "I can tell by touching the piece if it is moist or not. Once we pick the best entries for the class then I'll take a pinch, just enough to feel the texture and get a taste."

"He's got it right," she said after tasting a coffee cake in the novice division.

"I would like to have that recipe. It has good flavor to it," she said while tasting a butter cake entry.
There where 240 baked goods entries among the 1,706 4-H entries in more than 800 classes.

"Every 4-H project is bigger than the blue ribbon," said Mindy Turner, NMSU 4-H Extension specialist. "They are the basis for life skills youth build on for years to come. Not only have the 637 youth competing this year successfully completed their projects, they have taken a step toward a successful life."

The ribbon winning entries are on display at the 4-H Exhibit Hall during the New Mexico State Fair, which runs through Sept. 23.