A bottomless pit: Local eating contests are a gastronomic workout

Local eating contests are a gastronomic workout

Zoe Erickson raises her arms in triumph after finishing her peach in 1 minute, 44 seconds to win the children’s division of this peach-eating contest at the Palisade Peach Festival in Riverbend Park.

What was Jennifer Grossheim-Harris going to do? Lose?

Yeah right. She was a sophomore at Eastern New Mexico University, and it was Greek Week. Those fraternity guys were going down.

Instead of playing it cool, Grossheim-Harris, now in Grand Junction, used all of 20 seconds to “inhale” an entire banana split, beating everyone else — convincingly. She was 19 or 20 at the time.

“I remember hearing sort of in the back, ‘Look at that girl,’ ” Grossheim-Harris said, remembering the tone was one of shock and disgust.

From informal competitions on college campuses to sanctioned spectacles on Coney Island in front of 40,000, eating contests have popped up across the country, according to http://www.ifoce.com, the website for Major League Eating and the International Federation of Competitive Eating.

Western Colorado is no exception. Both the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival (Friday, Aug. 3, through Saturday, Aug. 4) and the Palisade Peach Festival (Thursday, Aug. 16 through Sunday, Aug. 19) have entertaining eating contests that draw many participants and even more spectators.

With those upcoming competitions in mind, I asked numerous Grand Junction residents what they would eat if given the opportunity to participate in an eating contest.

As for Grossheim-Harris, well, she is done with banana splits.

“Today, I think I could probably dominate a Peanut M&M’s eating or coffee-guzzling contest,” the 41-year-old said.

Emera Thornton, 26, Grand Junction

“Artichoke hearts. They are my favorite food and, honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten full of them. Ever.”

Dan Frank, 65, Grand Junction (PHOTO)

“My choice would be pistachio nuts because I love them and they are good for you ... taking them out of the shell would be part of the competition. I bet one could master cracking them open two at a time, using both hands.”

Stephen Baugh, 25, Grand Junction

“Beer. My favorite right now is Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA. It tastes awesome.”

Chelsea Schmeltz, 30, Grand Junction

“Shishito peppers. I think they are a little addicting.”

Griff Chiono, 27, Grand Junction

“Tacos, not like ground beef tacos.” He wants buche (pork stomach) and lengua (beef tongue) tacos. “They are my favorite thing to eat.”

Shannon Pilcher, 29, Grand Junction

“Probably pizza because I love pizza, like a good gourmet, homemade grilled pizza.”

Rachel Patterson, 21, Grand Junction

“Watermelon. I’d eat it so fast. It’s so good. It goes down so easy.”

Miranda Ashman, 31, Grand Junction

“I would choose glazed doughnut holes from Daylight Donuts.”

Daran Mahoney, 44, Fruita

“I would like to enter a crab legs eating contest. That is one of my favorite foods, and I would love to be able to eat all I could without getting the bill afterwards.”

Jennifer Price, 24, Grand Junction

“French fries. Because they are delicious and easy to put a lot of in your mouth.”

Josh Niernberg, 37, Grand Junction

“Hot dog tacos. Buy cheap hot dog meat and cook it up. Wrap it in a corn tortilla.”

Dave Tanner, 64, Grand Junction

“Ice cream. It’s easy and simple, and you wouldn’t have to do any chewing.” He would eat butter pecan flavor, as for his wife, Linda Tanner, 65: “I was going to say ice cream. It’s delicious.” She wanted chocolate.

Jen Schmalz, 35, Grand Junction

“Mine would be cheese. I love cheese. All kinds of cheese. I think I could win that.”

Kathy Morgan, “over 50,” Grand Junction

“Olathe sweet corn. It is so delicious. My record at one sitting is a dozen, and I had lots of room for more ... this was at the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival several years ago. My husband and I were just enjoying the festival. I could live on tender sweet corn and fresh tomatoes in the summer.”

Matt Heller, 39, Grand Junction

“If I could participate in an eating contest I would eat cheese curds (Graff Dairy has good ones). Those squeaky cheese chunks are the tops. Every time I pick up a bag I have to force myself to stop. And, yes, I did grow up in the Midwest.”

(Reporter’s note: So did I. He is right.)

Would you eat 16 ears of sweet corn in 10 minutes? Well, the winner of the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival typically eats between 13 and 18 ears, so you’d have to in order to win.

However, that would come nowhere near the world record, according to the Major League Eating and the International Federation of Competitive Eating, the self-proclaimed “world body that oversees all professional eating contests.”

According to them, Joe LaRue ate 46 ears of sweet corn in 12 minutes to set the record.

Here are some more obscure milestones.

■ Joey Chestnut, the top-ranked male eater in the world and current champion of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest (68 hot dogs with buns), ate a record 47 grilled cheese sandwiches and 118 jalapeño poppers, both in 10 minutes.

■ Sonya Thomas, the top-ranked female eater in the world and current champion of the Nathan’s contest (45), ate a record 80 chicken nuggets in 5 minutes and 65 hard-boiled eggs, in 6 minutes, 40 seconds.

■ Don Lerman ate seven quarter-pound sticks of salted butter in 5 minutes.

■ Patrick Bertoletti ate 42 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in 10 minutes.

■ Erick Booker ate 49 glazed doughnuts in 8 minutes.

■ Cookie Jarvis ate 1.9 gallons of vanilla ice cream in 9 minutes.

■ Jim Reeves at 13.22 pounds of watermelon in 15 minutes.

■ Dominic Cardo ate 3.3 pounds of pickled beef tongue, whole, in 12 minutes.


For more information about the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival, including information on the Joe Diffie concert Friday, Aug. 3, and the Survivor concert Saturday, Aug. 4, go to http://www.OlatheSweetCornFest.com.

For more information about the Palisade Peach Festival, including information on the new TGIP (Thank God it’s Peachfest) Concert featuring Stray Grass and Meagan Tubb and Shady People on Friday, Aug. 17, go to http://www.palisadepeachfest.com.


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