Pie Wars 4 competition heats up downtown Johnson City

Tony Casey • Jan 20, 2014 at 8:12 AM

War is Hell. Unless that war is a contest between local pizzerias to see which has the tastiest pies, then that war is a lot like paradise.

Pie Wars 4, put on in the Charles in downtown Johnson City, hosted by the Young Professionals of the Tri-Cities, had its fourth contest in as many years, and at press time had not yet crowned its fouth winner of the coveted Pie Wars 4 Cup, which this year is themed “Live Free or Pie Hard”.

As has been the case in past years, the evening is the YPTri’s charter event, and collects all its proceeds and donates them to children’s programs at East Tennessee State University, and to the General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Gray Fossil Site.

The aim of YPTri is to put on a big social event that puts a focus on local, small businesses, and raises money for a good non-profit group.

Haize Lewis, on of the founders of YPTri, said every year the event has gotten better, and pointed out that Pie Wars is completely run on donations, so as to get as much money as possible to the Fossil Site. She said the group puts on a monthly social, which is informal, but announced through social media. Pie Wars, she said, was organized by a committee of about 15-18 members, who were in attendance to help Sunday night.

“Pie Wars is our event, and we’re proud of it and love seeing everyone have such a good time,” Lewis said.

For an advance ticket price of $25, a person gets a ticket for the event, which includes a chance to eat as much pizza as they can from each of the participating establishments, which, this year, included The Blackthorn at the Ridges Golf Course and Resort, Pizza and Gyro, Mellow Mushroom, Fox’s Pizza Den, Main Street Pizza Company, and Scratch Brick Oven, and the ability to vote on the winner.

The competition for bragging rights has been tight these last few weeks, with smack-talking videos from each of the competing restaurants being posted on YPTri’s Facebook page.

Main Street Pizza Company owner Jamie Dove, whose pizzeria, in downtown Johnson City, won the event in its second year, couldn’t say enough about the event, and what winning the Cup means to the restaurants.

Dove said he strongly encourages other local places to take part in the event. He said the money and effort that he puts into entering the event every year is miniscule in comparison the networking and advertising he gets out of it.

Having taken part every year, Dove said he tries all the pizzas, and votes honestly like every other judge.

“I do vote honestly every year,” Dove said with a smile. “I vote for Main Street Pizza Company.”

He said the area was yearning for networking and social group like the YPTri for people in the area who are under the age of 40, saying the group gives involved people a chance to get to know each other and help each other out when needed.

Big Daddy Voodoo emceed the event, and asked the crowd and kicked off the event with a pizza topping pun.

“Whose pie will reign supreme?” he asked with a laugh.

One person, who’s attended the event all but one of its four years, already had her favorite in mind, and even though the pizzas are brought out anonymously, so as not to allow any bias to be injected into the competition, knew which one of the pies was her favorite.

“I like the experience, trying new pizza joints. This is how I found Scratch Pizza,” Johnson City’s Tonya Poteet said. “Scratch is the best pizza I’ve ever had.”

Throughout the hundreds of people in attendance were proclamations as to which of the pizzas were the best of the evening.

Samara Litvack, one cofounders of YPTri and organizers of Pie Wars, reinforced what Dove said about the benefits for a business to compete in the competition. She said after Scratch won the first year, their business soon tripled, and that all who get involved become huge advocates to the event. Last year’s winner, Pizza and Gyro, she said, had just opened up, and with a quick win in Pie Wars, boomed their business so much, that they sold out of food a few times.

Following the competition for the top pie in Johnson City, was a 10-person contest to see who could eat an entire large pizza the quickest. The winner went home with two free tickets to the spring NASCAR race in Bristol.

The Little City Roller Girls donated their time and helped serve pizza throughout the night, as did those at The Charles, who setup up tables, provided their space for free, and cleaned up for the event. Lewis said she couldn’t have done it without their help, as well as the donations made by many other local business.

More information about YPTri and their events can be found at their Facebook page.

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