“People need to understand that they need to cherish this thing,” Kerry Vincent says of the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show, an event she founded in 1993, which features the Grand National Wedding Cake Competition, arguably the most prestigious wedding cake competition in the world.
As she speaks, Vincent’s passion for the OSSAS is apparent, but when she uses the word “cherish,” her passion is tinged with frustration.
“Sometimes Oklahoma does not know that they have magical sugar in their back yard,” she says.
The hint of frustration disappears, but plaintiveness remains. She isn’t pleading simply to draw more paying customers to view the competitors’ entries. The show is already a success, attracting 600 competitors from across the country and the entire world, and with its location inside the Tulsa State Fair, it can draw 80,000 visitors. What Vincent would like most is to make more Oklahomans aware that there are world-class works of art on display right in their home state. The rest of the world seems to already know.
“I received an email, two separate ones, actually, from two people in Wales who don’t know each other, who want to come to this year’s show,” Vincent says, “Not as competitors. Just to look.”
The event is so highly regarded that it has drawn the attention of Food Network, which produced a special on the 2003 show and launched Vincent on a second career as host of programs such as Food Network Challenge and The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Numerous OSSAS competitors have also appeared on Food Network programs, and several have had their cakes photographed for Bride Magazine.
Lori Cossou, of Welch, Okla., knows firsthand the benefits of winning the competition, having won the grand prize in 2002 and 2007.
“I got local attention from newspapers and television and pictures of my winning cakes were published in several magazines,” she says. “Many of my customers come to my shop to see my show cakes after seeing them on the Food Network and in publications.”
Cossou displays all her competition cakes at her business, Lori’s Creative Cakes and Cookies, located just across the state line in Oswego, Kan. The attention she’s received as a winner has expanded her customer base and grown her business steadily. But prestige isn’t the only reason to enter the event. Last year’s grand prizewinner, Flora Aghababyan of Nevada, took home $13,000 in prize money.
“The money is definitely a reason (to compete),” Cossou says.
But it’s just one of many reasons why she continues to come back each year, along with seeing old friends, making new ones and helping those competitors just starting out. Mostly it’s a chance to cherish the work of some of the finest sugar artists in the world. And to spread the word to the rest of Oklahoma that there is magical sugar in their back yard.
Oklahoma Sugar Art Show And Wedding Cake Rock At A Glance
QuikTrip Center, Sugar Art Location (No. 42 on Fair map)
Saturday and Sunday, October 1 & 2, 2011, with competitor setup September 30
Saturday hours, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
10:00 – 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 – 5:00 p.m – Presentation by wedding cake designer and special celebrity sugar artist Karen Portelao from Highland Bakery in Atlanta, assisted by the ever-popular Joshua John Russell
11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. and 5:15 – 6:45 p.m. – Presentation by FNTV Challenge winner and chocolatier Darci Rochau from Hyatt Tamaya Resort in Albuquerque, using Guittard chocolate and assisted by husband Gregory Rochau
1:30 – 3:00 p.m. Ginger People — timed competition. (Contestants will need to arrive 30 minutes in advance to set up.)
Sunday hours, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Whoo Hoo – The new Easy-Bake Oven Hands On experience for parents and children
10:00 – 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. — Presentation by wedding cake designer and special celebrity sugar artist Karen Portelao from Highland Bakery in Atlanta, assisted by the ever-popular Joshua John Russell
11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 – 4:45 p.m. — Presentation by FNTV Challenge winner and chocolatier Darci Rochau from Hyatt Tamaya Resort in Albuquerque, using Guittard chocolate and assisted by husband Gregory Rochau
5:30 p.m. – approx. 7:30 p.m. — Awards Ceremony