The Cinco de Mayo Cupcake Bake-off was the first event I organized and held at the Charity Cottage. It was quite the learning experience, more time-consuming than I initially expected, but the payoff and the exposure were well worth the effort. The community response was incredible, from a local online radio station volunteering to DJ the event to both amateur and professional bakers donating dozens of cupcakes for the contest.
In order to hold a community-wide event, start planning a month and a half ahead. Decide on the details of the event, from the title to the date and time, and determine everything you will need: flyers, contest applications, press releases, entertainment, and volunteers for the day of the event.
To make sure people knew about our event, we asked contestants to tell their friends, put a lot about the event on facebook, and submitted press releases to local newspapers and local blogs. We hung a hand-painted sign outside the store a week before, advertising a cupcake bake-off, selling cupcakes for just a dollar each.
Bake-offs are fun for everyone involved — contestants get to enjoy the process of creating their very best item, and the general public gets to taste! For next year, I would be more aggressive with the marketing for the event, perhaps trying to get it on local downtown events pages.