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The New York Apple Association announced April 13 the winners of its annual display contest for apples and Marzetti products in military commissaries. They are Vicky Parsons of Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, AL; Jeannett Winkley of Dyess AFB in Texas; Patricia Vass of Portsmouth Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA; Mark Hare of Ft. Drum in Watertown, NY; Angela Harmon of Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, NM; and Jesse Arreola of Ft. Bliss in Texas.

The contest was open to all continental U.S. military commissaries and ran from Jan. 23 to Feb. 28. Entries featured displays of New York apples and Marzetti "Caramel Apple Dip" and "Apple Crisp."

Displays had to be up for two weeks, and could use apple varieties such as McIntosh, Empire, Red Delicious, Gala, Jonagold, Crispin, Rome and Cortland in bulk and/or bags.

The winners' prize is an all-inclusive entry to the Produce Marketing Association show Oct. 15-18 in Orlando, FL. Airfare and three nights stay at an official PMA hotel are included.

This year each commissary competed with other like-sized stores based on their sales ranking provided by the Defense Commissary Agency. Six winners were chosen -- two from each of three store categories.

There were 66 entries from 24 states, plus one from Puerto Rico and one from Washington, DC. This is the second highest number of entries in the 11-year history of the contest, according to the New York Apple Association.

As in previous years, the qualities of entries were excellent. The entries were judged by a panel of nine apple, advertising and retail industry experts. The entries were scored on nine different categories.

"This contest generated a lot of interest and creativity from our stores," Bridget Bennett, director of produce operations for DeCA, said in an April 13 press release

An important aspect of this successful promotion is the Bisek Co., the national broker for Marzetti products. The company has field staff in each commissary market to help coordinate displays and perform apple sampling events with Marzetti products.

On the entry form, the apple association asked for comparison sales numbers during the contest compared to last year. Here are a few notable comments:

* "Our sales increased 41 percent."

* "We had a sales increase of $1,750 over the same two weeks last year."

* "Sales increased 86.7 percent for bulk apples and 152 percent for bagged apples."

* "Overall our sales increased 55 percent for both bagged and bulk apples."

* "We had a 29 percent increase during the promotion period."

New York state had a very good apple crop this past fall, in excess of 31 million bushels, according to the association. The contest comes at a good time of year when New York needs to keep the crop moving out of storage. This effort also allows the association to reach new customers in the western and southern parts of the country.