A community tradition the pandemic couldn’t stop
By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
Editor’s note: this article has been updated to correct that Richard Sandza of BSCO is the founder of the Big Sky Virtual Kitchen.
BIG SKY – It would be strange to see a flatbed trailer laden with 180 individually wrapped slices of pie being toured around your neighborhood cul-de-sac. Then again, a lot of the COVID-19 adaptations we’ve witnessed this year have been unconventional. Ashley Dodd wasn’t afraid to get creative when the pandemic deemed it unsafe to host the regular 150 guests at her annual Pie Party, a tradition now in its seventh year.
Dodd and her family—husband Matt, daughter Piper, 10, and son Jasper, 7—have been living in Big Sky full time for the last seven years, and for each of those years they have hosted what they call a Pie Party in their home, usually at the beginning of each December.
Dodd, an avid baker by both trade and hobby, bakes upwards of 20 different pies, and invites the community into their home to take a slice and enjoy a neighborly visit. While her first year they had about 60 guests, the event has since grown to between 120-150 people, Dodd estimates. Impossible to host safely this year due to COVID-19, Dodd and her family got to work using her baking skills and a trailer.
“There’s a lot of downsides [to COVID-19] but the upside is that people have been so creative,” Dodd said.
On the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 6, the family drove counter-clockwise from their home at Rainbow Trout Run, down Limber Pine Place, up Sage Drive and back down toward the Big Sky Fire Department, distributing pies as they went. The pies then completed their journey through Fire Pit Park, and back to the Dodd’s house. All slices of apple, mixed berry, chocolate satin (Dodd’s personal favorite), key lime, lemon curd and salted honey found a home, and the donation box they displayed for the Big Sky Community Food Bank collected $300.
“I’m so happy with how the Pie Parade turned out,” Dodd said. “Although we didn’t see as many people as we normally would have, we saw a great number of our friends and neighbors and were able to bring a little holiday fun. My kids really enjoyed helping out, and riding on the trailer, and we’re proud of the contributions we were able to raise for the Food Bank—which could still use a lot of help this year if people are still able to contribute.”
Dodd is no stranger to the value of community involvement. After meeting her husband in Washington while they were both working as travel guides for Backroads Active Travel, they eventually both found themselves in Big Sky. Dodd worked as a snowboard instructor as well as at the Hungry Moose Market and Deli, where she put her skills to work in the bakery.
Once the Dodds moved to town full time, she took the position as head baker at the Moose before transitioning to a role at Ophir Elementary, where she has been cooking and baking for the school’s lunchroom for the last three years. Dodd is also a part of the Big Sky Community Theater and a participant of the Big Sky Virtual Kitchen, founded by Richard Sandza with the Big Sky Community Organization. The Virtual Kitchen has since ramped back up for the Big Sky Christmas Stroll.
You can tune into the Big Sky Virtual Kitchen on its Facebook page—on Wednesday, Dodd and Lindsie Hurlbut, the Big Sky School District’s food services manager, made a “bake-along” chicken pot pie.
“I just think the more involved you are in your community, the more you’re going to care and be a steward in your community,” Dodd said. “The more involved you are in different groups and activities, the broader experience you have. I think that gives you a better idea of what the community needs to function and to function well; what we need to grow … and where we can find opportunities to find joy.”
This week, joy came in the form of 180 slices of pie on a flatbed trailer.