Parker Harrell couldn’t wait to leave her home in Sherwood to drive south and spend some time with her great-grandmother Susan Gerretsen to bake some cookies to enter into the Douglas County Fair’s baking competition.

“Every year my great-grandmother makes cookies, and this year she introduced me to baking in the fair, so I got to bake something this year,” the 12-year-old Parker said.

Her excitement paid off. Parker won two first-place blue ribbons at this year’s fair in her first attempt by entering chocolate lady bug-shaped cookies and decorated pig-shaped sugar cookies for the fair’s decorated sugar cookies and brownies category.

“Winning first place was great because I got to call my great-grandmother and say, ‘Hey, we won first place, I’m so excited,’ and she was just so happy and it made me happy,” Parker said.

Gerretsen, 86, of Roseburg enjoys baking and has been winning first-prize blue ribbons at the fair for years. She passed the tradition down to her three daughters, five granddaughters and now one great-granddaughter. They have all entered baked goods in fair competitions and have won first place.

“I’ve always cooked with my children because I think it’s extremely important for children to know how to cook,” said Gerretsen. She makes about five dozen cookies for every holiday. “All my children know how to decorate cookies, because we’ve always done that.”

Baking with Parker on the Saturday before the fair was a joy for Gerretsen. The two spent five hours baking the two award-winning cookies that were delivered to the fairgrounds last Sunday morning on competition submission day.

“There’s no better way to get to know (children) than to cook with them, because we talk about so many different things while we’re cooking,” Gerretsen said. “In fact I know which cookies Parker’s going to bake next year; I’ve got the cookies lined up.”

Parker’s aunt, Ashley King, 22, of Roseburg, who’s one of Gerretsen’s granddaughters, has been visiting with Parker while she was in Roseburg. King said her grandmother helps her family bake cookies or brownies for the fair every year.

“She helps us pick out cookies and recipes depending on the theme of the fair, and teaches us how to bake,” King said. “She helps us learn the terminology of baking and techniques needed to develop the cookies.”

Like Parker, King was also 12 years old when she first entered baked goods in the fair and won first place.

When baking with her family, Gerretsen acts as a verbal adviser while her children bake on their own. She tells them how to sift the baking soda, flour and baking powder properly, and how to roll out the cookies along with other proper baking techniques as they follow carefully chosen recipes that Gerretsen has collected over the years.

King said Gerretsen is a well-known baker in Roseburg and whenever she bakes cookies for fundraisers, “Grandma’s cookies go for a lot of money.”

For King, the family tradition of going to her grandmother’s house to learn how to bake is “one of those special moments.”

“We’re proud to have three generations of kids cooking with my grandma; it’s a big deal,” King said.

Reporter Vera Westbrook can be reached at 541-957-4216 or

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Education and Arts and Entertainment Reporter

Vera Westbrook is the education, nonprofits, and arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4216 or by email at

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