Yes, it’s messy, but it’s all in the name of fun.
The Columbia County Fair held its annual Ice Cream Eating Contest on Friday. The fair continues at the Columbia County Fairgrounds, 182 Hudson Ave., through Monday.
The ice-cream-eating competition had three entry classes: The kids’ competition (for ages 12 and younger), the competition for teenagers (ages 13 to 17) and the adult competition (for ages 18 and up).
The competition drew a crowd from all over the state with many watching their friends and families take the brain-freezing challenge.
“We have been talking about this [fair] all year,” said Joan Lengel, of White Plains.
Lengel brought her two grandchildren, Noa, 9, and Eli, 5, both from Brooklyn. Noa competed in the children’s competition.
“Last year was our first year coming to the fair,” Lengel said. She stroked Eli’s head while he watched his sister take her seat for the competition. “We rent a cabin on a lake every August and love coming here.”
Each competition lasted two minutes with the objective to eat as much ice cream as possible in the shortest amount of time. The kids’ competition was first, followed by the teenagers and then the adults.
Fourteen children sat at a long table, facing the audience — eager faces of different shapes and sizes ready to enjoy the donated treats.
The master of ceremonies counted down from three and they took off. Most of the children started eating with spoons, except a few children started with their hands.
As the two minutes ran down, nearly all the children started attacking the vanilla ice cream with their bare hands. Ice cream flew everywhere, hitting the table and even some judges who were assisting the kids.
“Five, four, three two...one!”
The emcee of the ice cream contest and the crowd chanted down to the last second. There was not a clean face at the table.
Logan, 12, from Livingston, was announced as the winner of the competition. He held his head high in victory.
The children were allowed to keep their uneaten ice cream. Noa grabbed hers and walked away from the table over to her grandmother and brother.
Noa kissed Eli on the head and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t win the fair.”
Although she lost, she was not disappointed. Noa loves the fair— she loves sweets and the rides that the fair has to offer. The family was all happy to be there.
The teenager and adult categories were held after the children’s competition with five contestants in each.
Luis Gomez, 14, from the Dominican Republic, took home the trophy in the teenage category.
“It’s not exactly what I expected to do today, but it’s not bad,” Luis said.
The adult trophy went to Patrick Girardi-Drumm, 28, of Valatie. The win made him a repeat champion — he won last year’s ice contest.
“My hands are numb,” Girardi-Drumm said, adding it felt great winning this year.
“It’s a classic contest for the county fair,” said Patrick Wemitt, one of the directors of the Columbia County Agricultural Society, which hosts the Columbia County Fair. “Everyone goes home a winner thanks to Stewart’s.”
Stewart’s Shops donated 50 pints of ice cream for the competition, Wemitt said.
Friday was a cooler day at the fair for not just ice-cream-eating contestants, but all fairgoers, with temperatures reaching the high 60s to low 70s in Chatham, according to the Weather Channel. The weather was milder compared to the sweltering mid-90s of recent days.
The fair hosted a variety of activities along with the ice-cream-eating contest.
An antique tractor pull started at 10 a.m. and continued throughout the day, hosting different weight-class competitions.
“With the tractor and operator, the combined weight cannot be over the weight-class limit,” said Mike Melnyk, of Hillsdale, who assisted with the competition.
Between 130 and 140 operators competed in the antique tractor pull, Melnyk said. The tractors pull a machine called the transfer sled. A red metal box atop the transfer sled controls the weight of the sled and helps to slow down the tractor.
Oxen demonstrations took place at 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“Their names are Red and Rusty,” said Ralph and Judy Hartzell, of Hartzell Oxen and Mule, in Hoag Corners. “These boys are about 5 years old, but they can live to be 15 to 20 years.”
Oxen are steers trained to pull a heavy workload. They often pull their weight, but can be trained to pull a double workload up to 6 or 8 feet at a time.
The fair offers many of rides for people of all ages, along with vendors selling a variety of items from clothing to hot tubs, blankets and children toys.
A wide assortment of fair food delighted crowds Friday, with the usual aroma of fried food items not the only attraction. Italian, Indian and Greek food were available for visitors to enjoy.
Animals were on display with the 4-H Dairy Cow show, the goat show and the children’s petting zoo.
“That is what it’s all about,” Wemitt said. “It’s the three Fs: the food, fun and family.”