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Teen's Watermelon Jelly Is State Champion

Nipher Middle School student Jared McAvoy won the top prize at the Missouri State Fair, beating out jellies and jams from cooks around the state, including his mom and dad.

Jared McAvoy is generally a finicky eater, but he knows his way around the kitchen well enough to cook up a batch of award-winning watermelon jelly.

The Kirkwood teen’s jar of deep red jelly took first prize at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia earlier this month.

“I’m not really a jelly person,” said McAvoy, who admits he prefers chicken and other “beige” food over fruits and vegetables. “My mom said I’m finicky.”

McAvoy, 13, an eighth grader at , comes from a family of champion bakers and jelly makers. Between Jared and his mother, Sue Ann, and his father, Joe, the McAvoys brought home almost 30 ribbons from the state fair this year.

Jared has been watching his mom and dad enter jams, jellies, cakes, pies and breads at the fair since he was a little boy. Three years ago he decided to join in and won first place in his age group in the Lego-building category.

Last year Jared entered several of his homemade jellies — his specialty is strawberry-banana jam — and brought home a ribbon again.

But this year his watermelon jelly was the cream of the crop – it won the top prize, the Lavender Rosette, for being the best of about 30 first-place jams and jellies (more than 250 overall,) Sue Ann McAvoy said. He even beat his mom and dad, who brought home their own ribbons for grape jelly, apple butter and other treats.

The judges had one word for Jared's jar of jelly: “perfect.”

“He came up with the idea, figured it out and made it work,” Joe McAvoy said. “That’s what you have to do in life.”

The McAvoys spend many hours working in the kitchen. Last year alone they canned more than 70 dozen jars to give as gifts and sell at a church bazaar to raise money for outreach.

Jared said he liked to bake and cook because it was fun and he likes to eat.

“I can cook better than Dad but not as good as Mom,” he joked. “It’s good to get good at it because then you can make stuff to eat and you don’t have to go scrounging in the refrigerator.”

Jared, who wants to work some day as a robotic engineer, also learned some of his cooking skills in Boy Scouts. He recently achieved the rank of Star Scout, he said.

He’s already thinking about what to enter in next year’s state fair.

“I’m not 100 percent sure what I might make next year,” he said. “I might make a cantaloupe jelly, see how that turns out.”

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