Anne-Marie Storms (center) reacts to having pie dumped on her by Andrew Copeland (right) during last year's RIVERfair pie-eating contest. Jerry Wade (left) won the contest. (KEIZERTIMES file/Dee Moore)

Anne-Marie Storms (center) reacts to having pie dumped on her by Andrew Copeland (right) during last year’s RIVERfair pie-eating contest. Jerry Wade (left) won the contest. (KEIZERTIMES file/Dee Moore)

By CRAIG MURPHY

Of the Keizertimes

In case you’re wondering: don’t put blackberry pie in your hair.

That PSA comes courtesy of Anne-Marie Storms, the public outreach specialist at Keizer Fire District.

In case your next question is “And she would know that how?” there’s a good story behind it.

It happened at the pie-eating contest during last year’s RIVERfair. The annual event, put on by the Making Keizer Better Foundation, returns to Keizer Rapids Park this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The pie-eating contest starts at 2 p.m. at the amphitheater. (For a complete preview of the day, see page A2).

Storms has had a year to get ready for this year’s contest, which means she’s had one year more of preparation time compared to last year, when she and Lt. Andrew Copeland from the Keizer Police Department stole the show with their impromptu pie-flinging grudge match.

There are different age groups for the contest and Storms was watching one of the earlier contests with current mayor Cathy Clark when she casually mentioned there should be a KFD vs. KPD contest.

“She said we had enough pies,” Storms said of Clark’s re-action. “So I talked to Andrew. We had about 15 minutes of prep time. The prep was finding garbage bags. It was spur of the moment. For those of us in emergency services, that’s the story of our lives. We’re good at taking things on as they happen.”

Storms didn’t spend much time figuring out her strategy last year.

“My strategy was also spur of the moment,” she said. “They said the person with the least amount of pie left would be the winner. So I decided if I flung it to Copeland’s side, it would be his problem. What I did not anticipate is that he would fling a whole blackberry pie at my head. That stuff is super sticky. Every time I washed my hair for the next week, I found a blackberry seed.”

Since hands can’t be used, Storms quickly scooped out a big mouthful of her pie and heaved it onto Copeland’s plate. Copeland retaliated by picking up his entire pie by his teeth. Storms had a split-second notice and tried dodging the flying fruity projectile. Her efforts were partially successful, but her blond hair still got some lovely dark red accents.

While two members each of the KFD and KPD were at the table, two representatives from Keizer CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) were next to the firefighters. When Storms ducked, a good portion of the pie ending up going down the back of CERT member Jerry Wade, who was focused on eating his pie and was thus unaware of the commotion brewing next to him.

“I really didn’t notice. I was occupied,” Wade said. “I just know someone, maybe Anne-Marie, flung a pretty good chunk of it my way. It rolled down my back throughout the course of the event.”

Storms was initially declared the winner, but judges later decided the spirit of the rules had been broken and thus Wade took the crown.

Fast forward a year and only one of last year’s protagonists has committed to trying to win this year.

“From what I hear Andrew is bailing out on this year’s event due to the fear of being beaten by a girl…again,” Storms said with a laugh. “Even with Andrew bailing on the community I will compete with no excuses, unless I don’t like the pie options.”

Copeland confirmed his absence.

“I am coaching a Hoopla team this year, so I do not think I am going to be able to make the RIVERfair,” he said. “And of course, I am definitely scared of being beaten by Anne-Marie.”

Storms will be on hand and is trying to arrange the match of all matches.

“I’m trying to get the fire chief to participate,” she said of her boss, Jeff Cowan. “Imagine the mayor, the fire chief and police chief (John Teague) all at once.”

Copeland said Tuesday night he’d heard Cowan was down with the idea, but didn’t expect his boss to necessarily go along.

That wouldn’t be surprising, based on Teague’s reaction at Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting when asked if he would be in the pie-eating contest.

“I feel like getting into a car wreck that day,” Teague joked.

Wade feels there should be some kind of crown to give to the winner each year. He also said he’s trying to talk a CERT couple into representing the organization. For sure, CERT will be represented by someone.

“Maybe I’ll step into the splash zone again, who knows,” Wade quipped.

Storms can’t wait to try again, though she realizes the target – and possibly up to five pies – will be on her back after last year’s antics.

As long as the pies don’t have sticky seeds, she’s fine with that.

“We made a mess but we had a good time,” Storms said.