NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION UPDATE: I CAME, I ATE, I SAW FROGS JUMPING

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.

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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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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION UPDATE: THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

June 24th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

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Only nine more days until my watermelon-eating contest debut at the Bel Air 4th of July Festival in Bel Air, Maryland. My journey to this point started with the declaration of a New Year’s resolution (to compete in a watermelon eating contest), which led to a search for a contest in my general vicinity.

After that, it was time to learn as much as possible about eating lots of watermelon, including an interview with a professional competitive eater and former watermelon-eating champion. Armed with all of that research and knowledge, I tested my watermelon-eating prowess with a trial run last month.

Which leads us to today. In a week-and-a-half, I’ll arrive in Bel Air, Maryland, and take my place among the legions of other hungry competitors. I’m not really nervous. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve competed on the competitive eating stage dozens of times in the past. And, even though I was never very good at it, I always had a lot of fun and never regretted a single bite (except for that pizza contest in Washington D.C. in 2005…that one was brutal).

So, what’s left to do before the big day? Not much, really. I’ll make sure my eating clothes are clean and laid out for me the night before. Yes, I really do have “eating clothes.”

I’ll also make sure I don’t eat too much on the day of the contest. In fact, I probably won’t eat anything at all that day until the contest begins. Although there are varying opinions on the topics in competitive eating circles, I’ve always found that it’s better to begin a contest with a gnawing hunger in your belly. Physically, it makes sense – an empty stomach means I can eat more – but it also gives me a powerful, competitive drive and mental edge.

I won’t disagree if you think I’m taking this simple, local watermelon-eating contest a little too seriously. I probably am, but I’ve tackled every eating contest the same way. Like I said, my not-too-impressive career record might indicate that I should probably relax a little, but I just can’t. At least not until the contest is over and I can resume eating watermelon at a normal pace.

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION UPDATE: SEARCHING FOR A CONTEST

February 18th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

pic2Last month, I shared my 2014 New Year’s resolution – to compete in a watermelon-eating contest. In that entry, I offered a glimpse of a few champions and the high bars they’ve set for my own attempt to enter (and hopefully win) a watermelon-eating contest. Long story short, I’ll be happy if I can accomplish even half of what they did when I step up to the table later this year.

Of course, first I have to find a table to step up to. Much like my attempt to enter a seed-spitting contest a few years ago, there aren’t many watermelon-eating contests here in Pennsylvania. That means – again, just like the seed-spitting contest – that I might have to plan and create my own eating contest in order to achieve my 2014 goal.

I started my search over on EatFeats, which has the most comprehensive database of eating contests on the Internet. It lists nearly 100 watermelon-eating contests from around the nation in just the past two years, almost all of which took place in June, July, or August. A quick scan of the list even revealed a few right here in Pennsylvania, which gives me hope that they might plan a repeat performance in 2014. Among the contenders:

1. The Lewisburg Community Garden Harvest Festival (September 28) – The 2013 festival featured games, music, local farmers, food trucks, and a watermelon-eating contest.

2. The Kipona Festival (September) – Kipona is an art festival held each year right here in my town of Harrisburg. It’s a lot of fun, and they hosted a watermelon eating contest in 2012, but not 2013. The only question is, can I convince them to bring it back in 2014?

3. The Bel Air 4th of July Festival (July) – Bel Air is actually in Maryland, but it’s only 90 minutes from where I live, so this one has potential. They held a watermelon-eating contest last year and, wouldn’t you know it, they’re having one again in 2014. I think this might be the one for me, folks!

So there you have it. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, it looks like my competitive watermelon-eating debut will be in Bel Air, Maryland on July 4. That gives me a little over four months to test my skills and practice my watermelon-eating technique. Stay tuned for updates about that!

 

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION UPDATE: A LOOK AT SOME WATERMELON EATING CHAMPIONS

January 17th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

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Compared to previous years, which included competing in a watermelon seed spitting contest and growing my own watermelon, my New Year’s resolution this year is pretty simple: Enter a watermelon eating contest. Essentially, my resolution is to eat a whole bunch of watermelon. How hard can it be, right?

Actually, the hard part isn’t eating the watermelon, but finding the contest to enter. Like the seed spitting contest in 2012, it’s not something that happens all that often up here in the northern states. I’ll write more about finding a contest in a future blog entry. For now, I’d like to focus on the fun part of this challenge – the eating.

As I’ve shared before, I am a former competitive eater. It’s been a few years since my last contest, but during a five or six year span, I competed in all sorts of contests, including chicken wings, ice cream, pizza, shoo fly pie, giant hamburgers, and even breakfast cereal. But I’ve never competed in a watermelon eating contest. To get an idea of what sort of goal to aim for, I took a look at some previous championship watermelon-eating performances:

1. “Buffalo” Jim Reeves – According to the International Federation of Competitive Eating, Reeves set the current watermelon record by eating 13.2 pounds of in 15 minutes on July 30, 2005 at the “Swellin’ with Melon Watermelon Eating Championship” in Brookville, OH. To be honest, I’d be happy if I could eat half that amount!

2. ElephantsEarlier this year, eight members of the Southwestern College (San Diego) football team faced off against two Asian elephants to see which side could eat more watermelons in a 15-minute period. The football players ate eight watermelons, but the elephants downed 10 to take the title.

3. “Crazy Legs” Conti – On May 20, 2008, pro eater “Crazy Legs” Conti at 15.1 slices of watermelon in six minutes. Sounds pretty impressive, but it’s hard to say how big the slices were.

4. “Furious” Pete Czerwinski – On May 30, 2010, Czerwinski ate an amazing 34 slices of watermelon in three minutes in a contest at the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallendale Beach, Florida.

As you can see, the bar is set pretty high when it comes to my future watermelon eating performance. Luckily, I only need to compete in a contest in order to accomplish my resolution – I don’t need to win the contest. That’s good news, because I really like watermelon and I might actually try to savor it during my future eating contest appearance!

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