Ice cream eating contest: Victory is sweet but cold

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  • Smith College sophomore Julia “Sunshine” Schneider, center, of San Diego glances over at defending champion Marco Maggi of Springfield as she devours a portion of mudpie ice cream in the second Great Ice Cream Eating Competition at Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton on Saturday. Neither contestant made the podium, but they did get to take their remaining ice cream home with them. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kristen Eklund of Easthampton put down her spoon and used her fingers to scoop up gobs of black rasberry ice cream in the second round of the Great Ice Cream Eating Competition at Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. To her left is defending champion Marco Maggi of Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Alexis Neddeau, 4, of Springfield, holds her own small serving of ice cream as she watches the first round of the Great Ice Cream Eating Competition at Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in which her grandfather Steve Connor of Northampton was a contestant. Her father, Matt Neddeau, competed in the second round. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Herrell’s Ice Cream owner Judy Herrell, top center, uses her phone to keep track of the three-minute time limit on a round of the Great Ice Cream Eating Competition while her employees watch the action on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Herrell’s Ice Cream owner Judy Herrell, front row, left, sits with Great Ice Cream Eating Competition winner Joseph Menchetti of Cheshire, Connecticut, and the other 14 contestants on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Northampton. Joining them are third-place finisher Ramsey Kurdi, second row far right, of Amherst, and two-time runner up Allie Brady of Suffield, Connecticut, at far right holding a photo of last year’s group, which included winner Marco Maggi of Springfield, standing next to her. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 2/8/2020 5:56:41 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Devouring ice cream with your hands may not be the cleanest way to enjoy your favorite pint, but when competing in a group of 15 to see who can eat the most of the sweet treat in only three minutes, it’s a strategy that’s proven to work.

Sitting in a roped-off area of Herrell’s Ice Cream & Bakery on Saturday afternoon, participants in groups of five competed against one another to see who would be declared champion in the “The Great Ice Cream Eating Competition.” The rules of the event, now in its second year, are straightforward: Eat the most of a gallon-and-a-half bucket of ice cream in three minutes without getting sick. 

Each contestant, who had to be over 18, paid a $10 entry fee and chose one of five flavors of Herrell’s ice cream. The grand prize winner was given a one night stay at the Hotel Northampton, dinner at Paul & Elizabeth’s, a bottle of bubbly from Provisions, and other gift cards and truffles. Second- and third-place winners won gift cards to A2Z Science and Learning Store and Herrell’s. All participants got to keep their bucket of ice cream. 

Before the competition began, Judy Herrell, the store’s owner and manager, addressed the crowd of observers and commented on the criticism she received after last year’s event from those who characterized the event as gluttonous. Herrell told the Gazette that she only meant for the event to be a fun activity that brought people to local stores.

“We hope you enjoy all of the things that downtown Northampton has to offer," she told the crowd.

“For those of you who feel that this a very gluttonous event in poor taste, you’re absolutely right, and I applaud you,” she added, to laughs.

Amid loud yells of encouragement from onlookers, contestants dug their hands into tubs of one of the five flavors of ice cream, leaving some with chocolate and vanilla smeared over their faces when the timer stopped. Some washed down their ice cream with water, while another was forced to ditch their spoon after it bent when they first dug into their ice cream.

“If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not worth it!” screamed Shannon Sarkisian to the first heat of contestants. “Let’s go!”

In the end, Joe Menchetti of Cheshire, Conn., won the day, eating a total of 23.24 ounces of ice cream in the allotted time. Allie Brady of Suffield, Conn., earned a repeat of her runner-up finish from last year, putting away 22.2 ounces. Ramsey Kurdi of Amherst came in third by downing 21.6 ounces. For reference, there are 16 ounces in one pound.

Menchetti, a competitive eater who usually gobbles down “darn near anything you can imagine,” said this was the first time he has competitively eaten ice cream — adding that it might have been his hardest contest.

“There wasn’t that much brain freeze — it was a little bit more tooth freeze,” he said, adding that “I felt frostbite on my hands” from digging into the bucket.

“This contest was so difficult, it wouldn’t have surprised me at all if I wasn’t in the top three,” he said.

The three people who placed were also given a Herrell’s T-shirt.

Michael Connors can be reached at 
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