Fall scene decorates deli area at Sunshine Grocery

JoAnn Harrington stands in the fall display that she designed for the Sunshine Foods deli's entry in a national cake display contest. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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JoAnn Harrington’s got Sunshine, soda pop and cake.

Hopefully, that’ll all add up to first place.

Harrington, a Sunshine Foods deli employee, is responsible for the fall display directly across from the deli in Spring Valley’s grocery store, a leafy gathering of pumpkins, a scarecrow, a maple tree and a fence made from A&W Root Beer and 7-Up cases, all to highlight the flavors of Café Valley’s A&W-, 7-Up- and Orange Crush-flavored cakes. She entered the display of Café Valley baked goods, which includes cakes, cupcakes, turnovers, all kinds of bakery items, and soda pop cakes for a national display contest featuring the soda pop cakes. 

Harrington has been a Sunshine employee for the past four years, having begun as a cashier and then taking over in the deli.  She heard about the Café Valley soda pop cake display contest while attending a food show. 

“This is the only contest I’ve ever entered.  We just went to a food show in Albert Lea, and Café Valley had their contest rules there,” she said. “I entered, and whoever entered had to have their pictures in by Aug. 31.  The display has to have two different flavors of cakes, be up for two weeks, and they’ll announce the winners on Sept. 21.  The rest is all up to you.” 

She started brainstorming the friendliest way to show off the company’s cakes, and that’s when she started thinking of the harvest, green leaves turning gold and red, of pumpkins, and of how having a tasty piece of cake for a snack would go well together. 

“All the cakes are orange, green and brown, and I thought that that was close enough to fall so I could do a fall theme.  I just thought of a pumpkin patch,” she said. “I actually made everything.  They said that we could use cake and the pops — 12-packs of pop — in the display.  Everything in the display, I made — I painted and glued, and I glued my fingers.  The painting took me one evening and one whole night to finish the tree, and I saw the pumpkin faces on Pinterest.  It turned out good.  It turned out like it did in my head.  The tree and fence are my favorite because the A&W actually looks like it’s the fence.”

She has her husband, Lee, and Sunshine employee Hope Himli to thank for helping set up and secure the contest entry inside the store. 

“I came in outside of work to put this up, and it took a whole Saturday to do it.  Hope helped, and so did my husband and my son — I borrowed my son’s wagon, too,” said Harrington. “I love doing all the artsy stuff, the painting and all that stuff, but my husband was more the engineer on how to make things stand up and work, so I am glad he was here.  He made the pumpkins and the tree stand up, and then he put twine around the pop so that it would stay where it’s supposed to.”      

The contest’s national and regional prizes are cash, and Harrington hopes that her display garners some of the judges’ attention for creativity and so that she can have some spare change to plan a vacation. 

In the meantime, she’s appreciative of her customers’ admiration of the little landscape.  “People keep asking me if we know yet, but I said, ‘Not until the 21st.  That’s when the results are supposed to be in,’” she said. “But I tell them, too, to try the cakes.  They do taste like the pops.”