Forty-seven slices. Nearly six whole pies. Almost 15 pounds.
Just 10 minutes.
That’s how long it took Molly Schuyler on Sunday afternoon to devour that much thick and creamy pumpkin pie, in front of a cheering crowd of more than 200 at the Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence.
Not only did the scrawny, 120-pound California woman win the annual Hands-free World Pumpkin Pie Eating Championship, but she also easily beat her own world record – set last year – of 42 slices.
“Pumpkin pie is my favorite pie, but when you’ve had the 40th slice, you just don’t want to eat it anymore,” she said. “I love pumpkin pie. But I want whipped cream on it.”
And that’s a day after eating 93 chicken dumplings in two minutes at another eating contest in New York City.
“I’m a human garbage disposal, I guess,” she said. “I’m exhausted. I can’t wait to get home to my kids and my new cat.”
Schuyler, a lanky 5-foot, 7-inch mother of four from Sacramento, beat eight other competitors from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Western New York, as she shoveled slice after slice into her mouth, almost without taking a break.
She easily bested longtime national rival David Brunelli of Philadephia, who downed 32 slices – and who weighs exactly twice that of Schuyler – as well as local legend Dave Werick of Williamsville, with 20 slices. Michael Dietz, of Lebanon, Pa., came in fourth, with 16 slices, and weighs 370 pounds.
In all, the nine competitors downed 161 slices of pie during the contest inside a barn, with each slice weighing more than the average person eats on Thanksgiving, said announcer Todd Greenwald, chairman and founder of Wisconsin-based All Pro Eating Promotions, which officially sanctions and scores such contests.
Onlookers – including many children – watched with a mixture of awe, and likely shock, at the gluttonous display before them, and cheered the competitors. “It’s one of the messiest competitive eating contests that you’ll see,” Greenwald said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
The contest was part of the 20th annual pumpkin farm festivities on the border between Clarence and Akron, which attracts tens of thousands of Western New Yorkers for an array of entertainment from early September through Halloween. The festival includes food, amusement park rides, contests, farm animals, hayrides, children’s activities, a pumpkin catapult and pig races on a green-astroturf square course, bounded by metal fences.
The snorting fat pigs in particular took center stage for their races, as Dale Earn-hog Jr., Kevin Baconbits, Ham Solo, Hammah Montana, Lindsay Loham and Spongebob Spampants burst out of the gates, rounded the track and shot back into the silver van that brought them to the farm. “Can they bring home bacon?” asked announcer James Carusa from Sue Wee Flying Pig Races.
“It’s a lot of fun. It brings a lot of people out,” said Great Pumpkin Farm founder and organizer Kelly Schulz. “Every weekend, we have a different event going on, and they’re all fun.”
But the big draw was the 6-year-old pie-eating contest, which is part of the growing field of competitive eating that proponents call a serious sport. It joins similar contests around the country for hotdogs, hamburgers, pizza, wings, mushrooms, tacos, bacon, pancakes, burritos – indeed, virtually anything that can be eaten.
“Competitive eating is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and we believe it should be accessible to everybody,” Greenwald said. “Competitive eating is one of those things that you can go from a zero to a hero in 10 minutes, and it’s the only thing in the world that someone can do that.”
For example, Schuyler is now a regular in the circuit, and has become a national eating champion, competing coast-to-coast.
Besides the pumpkin pie and dumplings, she ate 440 chicken wings in 30 minutes for the National Wing Bowl in Philadelphia in January, 11.5 pounds of fried mushrooms in eight minutes in Kennett Square, Pa., earlier this month, 33 corn dogs in eight minutes in California in July, and 50 burgers in 17 minutes in Yuba City, Calif., in June. She is the national bratwurst-eating champion and, according to Greenwald, the world’s top-ranked independent competitive eater.
On the other hand, the sport is also open equally to professionals who travel and amateurs who stay local. There are no barriers to entry, pre-qualifications or fees, but you must be at least 18 years old.
“We want locals to participate. We want the average Joe and Jane to come in, and become a local hero,” Greenwald said. “We want everyone to come and have a good time, and possibly win some money.”
Indeed, Williamsville’s Werick, who weighs in at 270 pounds, said he started competitive eating eight years ago as a joke, but “then it just became something to do.” He’s used his winnings to pay for Halloween decorations and pumpkins for his children in the past. How did Werick feel when he finished? “Full. I’m not ready to eat something. Probably won’t eat until tomorrow,” he said. “That’s the other nice thing about the contest. It covers my food bill for the day.”
Sunday’s contest carried a $1,000 prize for first place, $500 for second, $250 for third and $50 for fourth. As an extra incentive for Schuyler, the reigning champion, Schulz tacked on a bonus: $200 for every slice she ate after exceeding the old record, for another $1,000.
Contestants in the feeding frenzy were not allowed to hold or even touch any of the food with their hands, or they would be immediately disqualified. So the nine eaters used the little white paper plates to pick up each slice and propel it past their lips as fast as they could, grabbing occasional gulps of water to wash the food down.
But the outcome wasn’t really in doubt for anyone, as Schuyler set a five-slice-per-minute pace at the start. “They pretty much just write it out to Molly,” Werick said admiringly, referring to the check for $1,000 that comes with first place. Other contestants included Jermoie “Zombie Boy” Tremont, Jennifer “The Torrenado” Torres, Zach Stelter, “The Black Hole” Rick Harrington and Mark “Dayton Destroyer” Fromholt.