July 9th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picSix months ago, as has become my annual tradition, I made a New Year’s resolution to tackle something on my watermelon bucket list. This year’s goal: to compete in a watermelon-eating contest. The 26-week process of completing this resolution has been fun, to say the least – from choosing a contest to compete in, to interviewing a professional competitive eater, to practicing at home in preparation for the big day.

The watermelon-eating contest I took part in was an annual tradition at the Bel Air 4th of July Festival in Bel Air, Maryland (about 90 minutes from where I live).

We arrived at the festival (my wife, daughter and I) about an hour before the 11:30 a.m. eating contest, just in time to catch the end of “The Great Bel Air Frog Jumping Contest” in Shamrock Park. True to its name, it featured frogs jumping, and it was probably the highlight of the day for our three-year-old. (The contest winner was a frog named Honey Boo Boo Child with a three-jump total of 102 inches!)

But I wasn’t there for the frog jumping contest in Shamrock Park; I was there for the watermelon-eating contest in Shamrock Park. After adding my name to the list of participants in the 17-and-older category, we took a stroll around the crowded and festive park to kill some time before my competitive eating showdown began.


Alright, I’m not going to bore you with a recap of my stroll around Shamrock Park – let’s get right to the contest. Each competitor was given a nice-sized wedge of watermelon with simple instructions that the first person to finish (eat it down to the white rind and have an empty mouth) would be declared the winner. (Above is a photo of the 7-10 year old competitors proudly displaying their watermelon wedges before the contest.)

After a countdown from 10 – which seemed like it took three full minutes – the eating had begun. About 17-and-older contestants were clustered together and the 20 of us created quite the symphony of chomping and slurping sounds. And almost as quickly as it had begun, the contest was over.

A gentleman from Forest Hill, Maryland was declared the winner, and boy did he ever do a good job of eating that wedge right down to the rind. I’m not 100 percent sure where I finished – probably fourth or fifth – which isn’t too bad. I’m happy with that performance. I had a lot of fun preparing for the contest and you can be sure that I’ll be back again next year to take another shot at the watermelon-eating title!

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May 29th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picMy New Year’s resolution this year is to compete in a watermelon eating contest. I’ve identified the contest and interviewed competitive eaters. With six weeks to go before the big day, the only thing left to do is get a few watermelon-eating practice sessions under my belt to test my capabilities and refine my technique.

Like I mentioned before, I used to be a semi-professional competitive eater, so “practice sessions” are nothing new to me. Before any eating contest, it’s a good idea to practice at least once to determine what sort of challenges you might face on game day. Even if it’s a food you’ve eaten 100 times in the past – whether it’s hot dogs, apple pie, ice cream, or watermelon – it’s a completely different eating experience when you’re consuming mass quantities of it in a short period of time.

For my first training session (and all future sessions), I practiced with half of a medium-sized watermelon, cut lengthwise into two equal quarter-melon wedges. My goal: to consume both in about three minutes. I’ve been known to eat on quarter-melon wedge in a single sitting, but I’ve never eaten two, and I’ve certainly never eaten two in the span of 180 seconds.

With my wedges in front of me (that’s them above next to a fork for perspective) and wearing my favorite “eating shirt” (yes, I have an eating shirt), I was ready to dig in. I warned my wife that things might get messy and she wisely suggested that I move my practice run to the picnic table on the back porch. She’s pretty smart about stuff like that.

So how’d it go? I finished both wedges in about five minutes. Not quite as fast as I had hoped, but not a terrible first effort, either. I was also right about things getting messy. By the time I was finished, my face was soaked in watermelon juice and my eating shirt was drenched, too. That’s okay, though, because it has more than its share of stains – each one with its own story to tell.

I plan to try at least two more training sessions before the contest on July 4 to see if I can improve my speed and technique. I’m pretty sure there’s room for improvement, and I’ve already got some ideas for how to make that happen. Stay tuned!

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April 28th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picMy goal of making my New Year’s resolution  – competing in a watermelon-eating contest – come true has been progressing nicely thus far. I’ve identified a contest to compete in and performed fairly well in my first practice run at eating lots of watermelon really fast.

For the next step, I decided to reach out to someone who’s currently consuming tons of food on a regular basis to ask him a few questions about the art of competitive eating.

For my interview, I turned to Pat Bertoletti (that’s him above), a 28-year-old Chicago native who was once ranked by the International Federation of Competitive Eating as the #2 competitive eater in the world. Pat retired from full-time competition last year to focus his attention on culinary pursuits, including starting a food truck called Glutton Force Five.

His competitive eating resumé is impressive, to say the least. Among some of the highlights of his career is eating 47 slices of pizza in 10 minutes, 275 pickled jalapeno peppers in 10 minutes, and 55 hot dogs in 10 minutes during the annual July 4 hot dog eating contest.

The most impressive thing about Pat’s career is that he’s won more than $240,000 dollars (that’s right, almost a quarter of a million dollars) in eating contests. In other words, he knows a thing or two about winning these things.

Your Wikipedia page says that, when you’re not training for your next big contest, you spend time collecting rubber bands to add to your rubber band ball. How’s the ball coming?

I gave up on the rubber band ball. It’s only fun in the beginning when the ball grows quickly. At the time I was using a lot of asparagus at work, and I saved the rubber bands from that. When the seasons changed, my source went away!

Speaking of training, I don’t want to “over-train” or burn myself out before my contest in July. What should I be doing between now and then to get myself ready?

Burning out is never good. Stick with healthy foods you enjoy eating a large amount of, and top it all off with some water. If you do that, you should be good.

You competed in a watermelon-eating contest way back in 2005 – your rookie year. You ate 12.9 pounds in 15 minutes, so you’re familiar with the food I’m up against. Any general tips for conquering the watermelon?

Watermelon is a great food to eat in contest. It’s high water content makes for a food that’s easy to eat a lot of. Practicing for a watermelon eating contest is a real treat, because you never really tired of it!

Last question, and I’m sure it’s something that’s on the minds of competitive eating fans everywhere. You’ve been semi-retired for about a year now. Any plans to make a comeback and compete at the top level again someday?

Hard to say. It’s great to be somewhat retired, because I can focus on other things. Who knows, I may come out of retirement for the July 4 hot dog contest after Joey Chestnut retires!

Thanks for taking some time to share some of your wisdom, Pat. Good luck with the food truck!

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March 20th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picBy now, you’re all well aware that my New Year’s resolution is to compete in a watermelon-eating contest. In last month’s update, I reviewed a few potential contests in my area and decided that the Bel Air 4th of July Festival in Bel Air, Maryland would be the event at which I would restart my once semi-successful competitive eating career.

That gives me roughly 100 days to get back into “eating shape” and train for the big showdown. Before I start training, however, I need to do a little research to figure out what type of eating contest will be hosted in Bel Air on that warm summer day. When it comes to competitive eating events, there are two types:

1. SPEED – Competitors are given a predetermined number of food items (one dozen chicken wings, six cheeseburgers, half a watermelon) and the first person to finish all of his or her items is the winner. These contests are usually fast and can be over in as little as 30 seconds.

2. QUANTITY – Competitors are given a time limit (usually 8-12 minutes), and the person who eats the largest quantity of the contest food is the winner. These contests are grueling affairs, with many eaters pushing themselves to the limit during the final few minutes. It’s not pretty.

My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach (which isn’t all that big), so speed contests definitely suit me better. From what I can tell, the Bel Air contest is a speed event. I don’t know for sure, but when you have events – like the Bel Air contest –  with hundreds of competitors, giving each person a predetermined amount of food is usually the easiest and most cost-effective contest method.


Although I haven’t been able to dig up many details about the Bel Air contest (I emailed the contest organizers and am awaiting their response), I was able to uncover the photos above, which were taken during the 2011 event. Curiously, it shows a hoard of competitors crouched down in the grass devouring a nice-sized chunk of melon. Based on those images, the contest appears to be a speed contest, which bodes well for me.

Another good sign is a news article about the 2011 event that notes that the contest was judged by a local Girl Scout troop. I buy a lot of Girl Scout cookies (our local troop calls me “Mr. Ten Boxes of Tagalongs”), so I may have a bit of an advantage with those tough judges.

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August 31st, 2009 by The Watermelon Guy


I once ate an entire five-pound watermelon in one sitting. I’m not ashamed to admit it either, unlike that time I ate a whole half of a chocolate cake just because my brother said I couldn’t do it. I’m no competitive eater, mind you, I’m just not one to back down from a challenge, no matter how sick it might make me afterwards.

“Buffalo” Jim Reeves is a competitive eater, though. He’s eaten 28.5 hot dogs in 10 minutes and 74 jalapeno peppers in 15 minutes. He also holds the world watermelon eating record with 13.22 pounds of watermelon consumed in 15 minutes at the “Swellin’ With Melon Watermelon Eating Championship” at the Brookville Community Picnic on July 30, 2005. I don’t need to tell you, that’s a lot of watermelon! I’m suddenly feeling the urge to put my watermelon eating skills to the test.

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