The day began with a trip to Cedarburg, Wisconsin to attend the city’s annual Strawberry Festival, which held a strawberry shortcake eating contest. As someone that has never attended the event before, I didn’t know what to expect of the festival or the contest. I knew the event was a celebration of the strawberry harvest in the historic community of Cedarburg, but I was otherwise unaware of what it entailed. Upon arriving near the community, Rachael and I weaved our way through city streets that seemed busier than normal for a small community. As we drove closer to the city’s center, the abnormally busy streets became a compact one lane route lined with tightly parked cars and a flurry of foot traffic. As we sat stationary on a city street for minutes on end, it quickly became clear to me the Strawberry Festival was a big event for the city of Cedarburg.
|The sight of the festival|
With knowledge the eating contest sign-up began at noon, Rachael and I found our way to a festival information booth to learn more about the event. Two women at the information booth informed us the sign-up station for the contest was located at the opposite end of the festival in the historic Cedar Creek Settlement of town. With less than 10 minutes until the sign-up process began, Rachael and I thanked the women and started a hurried walk to the other end of the festival. In rising temperatures and humidity, the two of us became more aware of the day’s heat with each step we took. Through a haze left by the previous day’s storms, the sun bore down on us as we maneuvered through the massive crowd of people. We passed one block after another of booths with food, drinks, art, and other products hoping we would find our way to the settlement quickly. I could feel the fabric of my clothing start to grip my skin as we continued through the intense summer heat in a stuffy crowd of people. It was hot, and I was ready to find some shade.
|Let's do this|
|The strawberry brat line|
Given the contest was not scheduled to begin for another 45 minutes, Rachael and I decided to wait in queue so she could give the strawberry brat a try. Over the next 20 minutes we shuffled our way toward the booth selling the brats in the midst of the midday sun. With our beer and our bottle of water nearly tapped out, we finally made it to the front of the line. After placing her order, Rachael was presented a sauerkraut-laden, bright red sausage that was jutting out of both sides of the bun. After a dousing of strawberry sauce, Rachael started munching on the brat as we worked our way back toward the eating contest stage. Curious about the brat, I was hopeful I would have room to try one myself later in the afternoon, but first I had to get through the eating contest unscathed.
Shortly after arriving back at the eating contest area, a group of teenagers announced the competition was ready to begin. We watched on as the competition began with the first heat. For people climbed up to a folding table placed in the middle of the modified hay wagon and took their seats. The event organizers placed a bowl overflowing with strawberry shortcake in front of each participant before explaining the rules. Although the hands-free aspect of the challenge left something to be desired, I was relieved to hear the contest was a speed competition and not a contest of quantity. For the first time that day I wasn’t worried about the consequences my stomach would face as a result of my participation in the crazy little event.
Seconds after the rules sunk in, the first heat began with the four contestants smashing their faces into the bowls before them. Eating as fast as they could, I quickly realized I was out of my league. The winner of the first heat ate a fist-sized piece of cake covered in strawberries in less than 11 seconds. I knew there was simply no way I would be able to accomplish that feat. Coming to terms with my likely defeat, I heard my name called to start the second heat. I climbed the small wooden stairs on the hay wagon and took my position at the table as my competitors took their positions at my flank. With my hands held tight under the table before me, I waited for the contest to begin.
|Going for it!|
|Destroyed by the guy on my left|
After a quick cleanup I worked my way back down to ground level. Stained with dribbles of strawberry juice, I slinked away from the eating contest area to greet Rachael in the crowd. We talked about the competition briefly before deciding to find our way back to the car to get out of the oppressive heat. With room still to spare in my stomach, I told her I wanted to stop by the strawberry brat stand before we left. In turn, we made our way back through the crowd of fellow festival-goers to stand in line for a second time. After a brief wait, I had my strawberry brat in hand. With anticipation, I loaded it up with strawberry sauce and took my first bite. The taste was something different. I found it good but altogether hard to describe. While I won’t try to explain exactly how is tasted, I will say I think a strawberry brat is something everyone should try. After all, it is probably one of the only “dessert meats” out there.
|The strawberry brat|
With my brat gone, Rachael and I walked back to the car and starting making the trek home. Exhausted from the summer heat, I had Rachael drive the second leg of the trip home. Stomach full of strawberries, cake, and brat, I quickly dozed off in the passenger’s seat as I soaked in the cool, conditioned air. Upon waking, I had time to reflect on the day’s events. In all, Today’s experience helped me learn a few things. First, summer is definitely here. Second, I’m just not cut out for eating contests. That stated, the Strawberry Festival and my first eating contest were memorable events. Although I doubt I will enter another eating contest in the future, I’m glad I gave it a try. This is something I wouldn’t have tried in any other circumstance, which means that my “I have never…” objective of exploring new things is keeping me motivated and driven to put myself out there. As a result, my first attempt at an eating contest assisted me in gaining another new experience and in crossing off another event on my “I have never…” list.