By Lisa Capobianco
Contestants of all ages kept their mouths wide open and their stomachs growling during the apple pie and the apple fritter eating contests at the 45th annual Apple Harvest Festival.
On Saturday, registered participants competed on the main stage to claim their title, stuffing their mouths until they could no longer carry the weight of the apples.
Three age groups competed for the medal: 7-11 years of age, 12-17 years of age and 18 and up. Luke Gagnon, a fifth grader from Wolcott, won the first pie eating contest, followed by Christopher Bowman, who came in second place and Camdyn Grosskoph who came in third.
As his face lit up with excitement and remnants of pie filling sticking to the side of his mouth, Gagnon said competing in food contests is not new for him—he was the winner of last year’s apple fritter contest, and his father also used to compete in eating contests.
He also did not prepare for the apple pie eating contest.
“It was on a whim,” Gagnon said.
Julia Berardinelli, a subcommittee member of the festival who helped coordinate the sign-up sheets for the contests, said it is exciting to see people of all ages have fun with the competition.
“The kids absolutely love it,” Berardinelli said. “We get the same people to come back every year and claim their title.”
Christine Aldier, the winner of the 18 plus age group during the pie eating contest, said she is also not a stranger to food competitions. Aldier said she has participated in the pie eating contest for five years now. She even decided to enter the apple fritter contest that same day with the hope of winning another competition.
Although she did not win the fritter eating contest, Aldier walked down the stage with her head held high, saying, “I will be back next year.”
The apple fritter champion for the adult competition was David Harnois, who has competed and won sporadically for at least six years. Harnois said he felt “fine” even though he stuffed a total of 18 apple fritters in his mouth.
“One year I drank a milkshake before I did it,” Harnois said.
Danny Dolan came in second place for the apple fritter contest, and John Kowalczyk came in third place.
Children and teens also made room in their stomachs for the apple fritters, made by volunteers of Zion Lutheran Church. Both Nick Mangene, the winner of the seven to 11 age group, and Michael Fappiano, the winner of the 12 to 17 age group, said they actually ate lunch before entering the contest.
All winners of the apple fritter contest won an electric toothbrush and toothpaste from Just for Kids Dentistry, a new pediatric dental office in town, which sponsored the contest.
“I figured I would give them something to clean their teeth with,” said Dr. Celeste Wegrzyn.
If anyone wants to take up the challenge, the apple pie eating contest and the apple fritter eating contest will take place again on the main stage Saturday at noon during the festival. Preregistration will start from 9 a.m. to noon at the gazebo, and all participants must arrive ten minutes before the contests begin.