Oh, fudge!

Patrick Sherman goes behind the scenes at Town Center Village's famous fudge contest
by: patrick sherman, Judges had to sample a total of 143 entries divided among three separate categories.

Town Center Village hosted its 11th annual fudge contest last week, benefiting education and research to fight Alzheimer's disease.

'The first year, we had 12 entries all together. It was just a tiny little contest, but it's exploded exponentially,' said Laura Bowman, the facility's marketing director. 'People know about it, and they ask about it.'

This year brought a total of 143 entries across three categories - one for residents, another for staff and a third for the community at large. Veteran judges with proven gastronomic fortitude were assigned to the largest of the three categories, the outside community, which featured 65 different types of fudge to sample.

'I'm programmed, and I'm dedicated,' said David Vick with AFLAC insurance, who has judged the previous 10 contests. 'The key to judging all these different samples is to focus on each one individually.'

Novice judges were assigned to the other two categories, each with fewer than 50 entries to sample. Brian Alfano, a store manager with Umpqua Bank, was among them.

'When I first walked in and saw them all laid out on the tables like that, it was a little intimidating,' he said. 'I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to get through it, but it was a lot of fun. We had a good time - and I didn't get sick.'

In spite of the obvious risks - diabetic coma and rampant tooth decay, to name just two - it was easy to find judges for this year's contest, according to Fitness Director Melanie Cooke.

'We're getting famous - we've been on TV,' she said. 'I had people begging me to be judges, but there are a few qualifications: you have to love fudge, and you have to be able to handle the load.'

Winners in all three categories shared in $2,500 worth of prizes, with cash awards going to those who finish in 12th place and up. Town Center staff member Patti Hall claimed the title of Grand Champion with 'Grandma's Dirt Fudge.'

After the contest, the clubhouse was opened up for a tasting party. For a $1 donation to the Alzheimer's Association, the public was welcome to sample all the entries. Plates and entire baskets of fudge were also available, for an additional donation.

The contest is a good fit for the facility's community, according to Bowman.

'We have a new mission statement here: 'Enhancing lives and celebrating the excitement of living,'' she said. 'Making fudge is a traditional part of the holiday season, and it's wonderful to see so many people participating.

'We have 30 entries from our residents, and only 100 of them have kitchens - that's just amazing.'