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Missouri pie auctions for $3,100 in a bid to set world record

July 08, 2012|By Matt Pearce

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Out in the sun-scrubbed farmland that stretches over most of western Missouri, there’s a little town called Rich Hill known for its Fourth of July celebrations — “famous for the Fourth,” as they say there.

Well, Rich Hill could get famous for something else: a peanut-butter banana pie on a Hammond Pretzel crust that auctioned for $3,100 on Friday.

The winner: Jerry Mumma, a 75-year-old farmer who grows soy, wheat and corn. The baker? His 18-year-old granddaughter, Jara Mumma.

So the obvious question is, what does world-record pie taste like?

“It’s rich, peanut buttery, and it tastes pretty good,” Jara Mumma told the Los Angeles Times. “The pretzel’s pretty salty, so it’s a contrast.”

Her grandfather has no idea, however.

“I tell you what, my wife cut it up in little bitty pieces and handed it out to everybody who wanted to try it,” Jerry Mumma told The Times. “She just passed it out to people who were bidding against me.”

In recent years, Rich Hill’s pie contest and pie auction, a big fundraiser for the town’s Fourth of July jubilee, has been spiraling out of philanthropic control. The pie auction has turned into the pastry version of the world’s friendliest arms race.

“About four years ago, we sold one that brought $400. That was a big deal back then,” Larry Hacker, the event’s auctioneer, told The Times. “Well, the next year we sold one for about $1,000, and last year, Mr. Mumma bought one for $2,600.”

Well, not exactly. According to his daughter, Chantelle Mumma, Jerry Mumma bought last year’s pie — also baked by his granddaughter — for $700, then re-donated it to the town, then re-bought it in the same auction for $2,600.

“The way I understand it, what the [town’s Fourth of July] committee gets off this pie auction, they invest in next year’s Fourth of July,” Jerry Mumma said. The four-day festival involves inviting big-name bands to  town. “They had the Kentucky Headhunters this year, and it didn’t cost you nothing to go up there and listen to them.” This is how Mumma gives back.

At which point Hacker, the auctioneer, got an idea.

“So I thought, what the heck, we’re famous for the Fourth — why not be famous for this?” Hacker said.

According to the Guinness World Records’ website, the most expensive pie ever sold cost £8,195, (then $14,260) at the Fence Gate Inn in Lancashire, U.K. — a meat pie filled with Japanese wagyu beef fillet and topped with edible gold leaf (yes, really).

But Hacker said he double-checked with Guinness officials and found that the most expensive pie sold at auction cost £1,250, or roughly $1,935 at today’s exchange rate.

Rich Hill bidders had already beaten that figure last year, so Hacker set up two video cameras to document this year’s auction, and added two photographers, three statisticians to keep track of the event and three ringmen to take bids so that he’d have all the materials necessary to send back to Guinness officials in London. Hacker said he expected to hear back from Guinness World Records in about four weeks.

The highest-bidding pie — which hadn’t even placed in the pie-judging contest for the tastiest pie — came as the result of a showdown between Jerry Mumma and Bud Fillpot, another regular Rich Hill pie philanthropist. Fillpot gave up at $3,000, and Mumma took the apparent title of world champion.

He didn’t seem to care about any world record or whether any Brits would think it would be legit.

“I wasn’t paying attention to it,” Mumma said. “Doesn’t matter much. I don’t care. Just as long as the community’s happy and they get along. I had a friend of mine sitting behind me say, ‘Let the limeys figure this one out.’ ”

Hacker said the auction, which sold 48 pies, raised more than $10,000.

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