by | Jul 19, 2010 | Dessert, Family Traditions, Fun Events, Recipes, Travel

Summer time means fair time for the Holm family. The annual Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, CA, has played significant and varied roles in our lives. Many of us have been exhibitors at the fair. As a small child, I remember going to the fair to see my grandfather’s hay on display. It was at the same fair that I saw an “iron lung.”

Because agriculture has been such a large part of our lives, the Junior Livestock Show and Auction is the event in which most Holm family members have participated. The Holms, Calhouns, Neelys, and Carters have all exhibited market lambs, beef cattle, and horses, with many of their 4H and Future Farmers of America projects being sold at the Junior Livestock Auction. Dick and Ione Holm were ardent supporters and stayed late into the evening, bidding on and buying not only their family’s animals, but also their friend’s. We continue to honor Dick and Ione by sponsoring an award in their name each year. Bob Holm continues the tradition of buying at the auction and has been buyer of many champion lots. Numerous family members help host the Junior Livestock Booster’s annual barbecue.

Livestock is not the only area in which the Holm family has competed for prizes and won! Tilli Calhoun and Nancy Mueller both have won prizes in the Fine Arts and Photography Department. Petra Holm has wowed the judges with her beautiful knitting and crochet.

For some of us, the fair has been a place of employment. I began working at the racetrack, where Hank Neely would often enjoy an afternoon. Merry Carter, Wendy Howe, Nancy Mueller, Patsy Neely, and I have all spent summers working in the Competitive Exhibit Department, working with everything from art to wine, and pies to pigs.

Gelato was a main staple during the 2010 fair. Matt the owner of Colossal Gelato likes to use local produce…It is made fresh daily. At the Alameda County Fair he used fresh ollalaberries, blueberries and blackberries from Brentwood for Berry Mountain, Fresh Blood oranges for Blood Orange and fresh cherries for Cherry Chocolate Chip – he invited in the fair manager’s family to learn how to make it. He also had frequent buyer cards available – buy 5 get one free. His next stop on the fair circuit is Santa Maria, so you can only imagine how delicious the strawberry will be!!

Our next stop on the fair circuit is the Amador County Fair in Plymouth, CA,  July 29 – August 1, my husband Troy Bowers happens to be the CEO. Through a fair connection, I was invited to go on a blind date with Troy – what good fortune – I married him! Troy’s father, Bates, was the fair manager and his mother, Jean, was the secretary of the Kings District Fair in Hanford. (The fair must run deep in our blood!)

We have not often entered baked goods in the county fair, but our longtime family friend Howard Bettencourt has. He graciously gave us his award-winning pie recipe to include in our cookbook. His pies are a remarkable sight—and delicious. (It looks best when it’s whole, before they cut into it for the judging!)

Howard’s Blue Ribbon Boysenberry Pie  

Howard Bettencourt has been entering pies in the Alameda County Fair for more than 15 years and he has a box of blue and gold ribbons to show for his efforts! He is famous for his crust, which he rolls out between sheets of wax paper, rather than a floured countertop. He says avoiding the extra flour keeps the crust tender.

Pastry crust

  • 2½ cups sifted unbleached or all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter-flavored Crisco
  • 5 tablespoons cold water


  • 4 tablespoons instant tapioca
  • 4 cups fresh boysenberries
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

To make the crust, in a medium bowl mix together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or a pair of knives, cut the shortening into the flour. Add the water all at once and mix with a fork.

Then pull the dough together with your hands. Divide the dough in half and roll out 1 piece between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Line the bottom of an 8-inch pie pan with the dough. Set aside.

To make the filling, grind the tapioca in a coffee grinder to break it down. In a bowl, mix the tapioca with the berries, sugar, and lemon juice and toss well. Pour the fruit into the uncooked pastry shell. Roll out the second piece of dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper and cover theberries with it. Press the edges together to seal, then crimp them. Cut vents in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake for 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350°F and continue baking until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Let cool before serving.  Makes one 8-inch 2-crust pie

~ Susie Calhoun

“Fair time is fun time!!”