MOUNT VERNON – The contestants came to the table neat, orderly, usually smiling. They left defeated; some with brain-freeze, others with stomach aches, all with vanilla ice cream splattered somewhere on their hands or face.
This was the first ever “Ice Cream Eating Championship of Mount Vernon,” hosted by The Joint and Velvet Ice Cream at this year’s Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival. Family members and curious spectators packed the east end of Public Square on Friday afternoon to witness the merciless devouring of America’s favorite summertime dessert.
GALLERY: 2019 Ice Cream Eating Championship of Mount Vernon
Community members of all ages participated in the first annual "Ice Cream Eating Championship of Mount Vernon" at the Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival on Friday afternoon. The contest was broken up into five age divisions, and it was capped off by a 'Local Celebrity' competition. The event was made possible through a collaborative effort between The Joint and Velvet Ice Cream.
Participants were split up into age groups (years 5-8, 9-12, 13-15, 16-20 and 21-plus) and the event was capped off by a ‘Local Celebrity’ contest, which featured community leaders from all sectors. Contestants were given a spoon and as many pints of vanilla Velvet ice cream as they could finish in a set period of time.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis served as the judge; when time was up, he would meander from chair to chair, closely examining the progress of each contestant before announcing a winner. The winners received a special prize pack from The Joint and Velvet – along with the pride of having outlasted their counterparts.
It got competitive. And sticky. And numbingly cold.
The first champion, in the 5-to-8-year-old age bracket, was Mount Vernon’s Jase Shirley. Despite suffering noticeable anguish midway through the minute-long contest – “it brain-freezed me,” he said of the ice cream – the Twin Oak second-grader overcame the pain and won easily. His goal was to finish half of his pint, and he appeared to have come close.
Shirley’s mother said afterward that Jase is an “ice cream eating machine,” as he typically finishes his cone first and then helps finish others. When she saw there would be an ice cream eating contest in Mount Vernon this weekend, she had to sign him up.
“I work over at The Joint and I seen that, and I’m like, ‘Trish, I gotta be off for this,’’ she said, “‘because Jase can win this thing.’”
After Camden Pletcher won the 9-to-11-year-old group by a close margin, gulping down half a pint in two minutes, the stakes got bigger. There were no participants in the 13-to-15-year-old class, so the 16-to-20-year-olds took the stage.
Noah Brown sat in the middle, flanked by two competitors to his left and two to his right. Unbeknownst to his opponents, Brown has a history in competitive eating. It paid off on Friday afternoon.
Brown smashed a pint-and-a-half in just two-and-a-half minutes. And he probably could have gone for longer; after he won, he took the rest of his unfinished ice cream with him.
Brown, who graduated from Clear Fork High School this spring and plans to attend Ashland University in the fall, said he has participated in eating contests for years now. He recently competed in the state fair’s ice cream eating contest, and he has also eaten pancakes and hamburgers competitively.
Brown was inspired at a young age by ‘Man vs. Food,’ the popular Travel Channel show where host Adam Richman travels the country, taking on unfathomable food challenges. Brown liked the show, and he also liked the sense of accomplishment he got from winning (curiously enough, he was also a state-qualifying tennis player for the Colts last year).
“I’ve done a lot of food challenges, and I saw this on Facebook and I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m definitely doing this,’” he said of the Mount Vernon contest. “I’m local, so I might as well.”
As dedicated as Brown is to the craft of competitive eating, he couldn’t find the words to explain what separates the good from the great. His strategy on Friday was simple:
“Just chow down and hope it all goes down, and you don’t see it again.”
The winner of the 21-and-over division shared a similar mindset. He also happened to be a competitive eater.
Fredericktown’s Jamie Mizer, 37, beat five other contestants by knocking out three-plus pints in four minutes. As he walked away from the stage with his prize pack, he continued to devour pint No. 4.
“Two minutes, it starts to hit you,” he said of the challenge. “It gets solid, you have to chew it. That’s when it starts to get the brain freezing part. It’s not too bad, I’m used to it.”