First time was a charm for new Great Bend business Sweet Dreams Candy Shop. The downtown business, which opened only two months earlier, earned distinction last Saturday as this year’s Great Bend Cookie Contest winner. It unseated three-time Cookie Contest Champion A440 Music by one vote.
This year’s winning cookie was a caramel stuffed snickerdoodle, which is the secret recipe of Sweet Dreams owner Skylar Meeker. She chose the scrumptious cookie knowing that there would be amazingly delicious cookies to taste among the 24 business locations competing in the 11th annual contest that happens the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Adding to the pressure, she was also competing against family members at Mr. Olsen’s Natural Solutions, another new Great Bend business. Mr. Olsen’s gave her a good run, finishing this year in third place, just five votes shy of Sweet Dreams.
“It was exhausting, but a good experience for us,” said Meeker about her business’s initial involvement with the annual cookie contest. “I enjoy baking, so it was fun for me. The hardest part was choosing what cookies I was going to bake from the recipes I have.”
Despite nearly 40-mile-per-hour wind gusts in an otherwise pleasant morning and afternoon, 170 cookie judges ventured throughout the 24 locations to taste cookies and vote for the best cookie in town. A donation of $5 was suggested for all participating judges, with the collected proceeds going to the Community Food Bank of Barton County to help feed those in need during the holiday season and beyond.
The annual cookie event has grown in popularity over the years. For the second straight year, the event sold out, even with 30 extra bracelets compared to last year. Next year, organizers have plans to increase participation to 250 to account for the growing popularity of the event.
The cookie contest has become a post-Thanksgiving tradition for families and friends, and it has helped to draw extra traffic into Great Bend stores during Small Business Saturday. Meeker said she was pleased with the amount of foot traffic that came through her store, with many of them also being shoppers.
“I was surprised at the turnout of people for the cookie contest,” she said. “We had people in the store who had not been in our store before, so that was nice to see. And we probably had half, if not more, stop and buy something while they were here for the cookies.”
As part of the festivities, cookie contest businesses also donated prizes, which were awarded to cookie contest participants during a drawing that took place following the evening’s Home For The Holidays Parade.
“I’m amazed at how much interest the cookie contest has generated over the years with businesses and with people wanting to participate,” said Great Bend Cookie Contest organizer and Rosewood Business Development Director Anna Hammond. “It is more fun-raising than fund-raising and its success has been a benefit in many aspects: entertainment and cherished memories for shoppers and family members, increased store traffic for retailers, and just as important, generous contributions to our community’s food bank. It is an event we will continue to build on in the coming years.”
Cookies and Candy: Sweet Dreams Candy Shop owner Skylar Meeker stands among an assortment of candy in her new store while holding her certificate, showing that Sweet Dreams is this year’s Great Bend Cookie Contest Champion. Meeker said business has been good since she opened her candy shop at 1917 Lakin Ave., Great Bend on Oct. 1. Besides offering a candy buffet, Sweet Dreams sells nuts, glass bottled soda and Dippin’ Dots, to name several of the products available.