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Pumpkin pie-eaters go head-to-head at fest

Marc Thompson, 13, of Sycamore, competes in a pie eating contest at the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival on Saturday.
Marc Thompson, 13, of Sycamore, competes in a pie eating contest at the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival on Saturday.

For DJ Kurtzman, pie-eating is almost a sport. After he won the Kiwanis Pie-Eating Contest on Saturday, pieces of pumpkin pie remained on his gray beard.

Kurtzman has won the contest, which took place at 4 p.m. on the Sycamore Courthouse lawn, in 14 of the last 15 years.

His sons also participated in the event. Micah and Jonathon Kurtzman won second prize in their respective age groups.

Kurtzman grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. and moved to Sycamore 15 years ago.

“I love this place,” Kurtzman said, as he cleaned pie off his face. “It's the perfect place to raise a family.”

The contest had over 50 total participants, said Dave Leifheit, director of Sycamore Kiwanis Club, which sponsored the event. There were three age groups: ages six to ten, 11 to 15, and 16 and older.

This was the 51st year of the Pumpkin Fest, Leifheit said. He guessed that the pie-eating contest has probably been around since 1970.

Winners came from all over, including a fourth-place finisher from Wisconsin. Second-place finisher Bridget Coghlin-McMillion came from Chicago to participate.

Andy Mahumed, Coghlin-McMillion's family friend, called Bridget a perennial champion. He said she won in her age group at least four times.

“It's a God-given gift,” Mahumed said. “She feels fantastic afterwards.”

Participants are required to eat half of an eight-inch pie only using their mouth. With their hands behind their back, eaters are supposed to eat all the filling as fast as they can.

The 16 and older contest lasted less than ten seconds.

“It's amazing how fast it goes,” Mahumed said.

Judge and DeKalb Kiwanis Club President Tarryn Thaden said there are a few techniques that pie-eaters had.

“The most disgusting was to save it all up like a chipmunk and regurgitate it at the end,” she said.

The top prize for the contest was $5. Second place got $4, and third place received $3. Both forth and fifth place received a $2 prize.

“It's not for high prizes,” DJ Kurtzman said. “It's for the glory.”

Kurtzman has kept every single winner's envelope from each year he has participated at the contest. The envelope he was holding shortly after winning had orange stains on it from the pumpkin pie.

Nancy Leifheit, associate member of the Kiwanis Club, said people participate because it's fun competition.

Kurtzman took his kids to the contest because it gave them a nice break from schoolwork and from raising the kids, he said.

“It's a blast, Kurtzman said. “We laugh at each other and take pictures. Then we look back at the pictures and laugh some more.”

It was DeKalb Kiwanis Club's first time at the Sycamore pie-eating contest. Thaden said they would absolutely come back next year to help.

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