Think twice before challenging 15-year-old Alex Bayless to a pickle-eating contest.
On Saturday, the Washburn Rural High School student successfully defended his title as Porubsky’s dill pickle-eating champion at the Shawnee County Fair, making him the two-year winner.
His tips for aspiring speed-eaters eyeing next year’s competition?
“All I did was stuff a bunch in my mouth, chew, swallow and do it again,” said Bayless, who adds that he loved pickles throughout his childhood, and can even polish off a jar of them in a day. “I was always doing that.”
For his efforts, Bayless received a prize of $30.
The second-place winners in the contest, in which 21 children and teenagers competed, were 17-year-old Mitchell Porter and 17-year-old Mariah Ryer, respectively. Competitors had to guzzle down 10 pickle slices as fast as they could.
Though Bayless enjoyed the dill pickles, he doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about participating someday in the 18-and-above competition.
“I’m not a big fan of hot things,” he said.
Adults at the annual event take on a Topeka treat known for its bite — Porubsky’s hot pickles. An announcer noted as this year’s nine competitors waited to begin: It’s a challenge that “takes a lot of bravery — and a lot of Pepto-Bismol later.”
This year’s winner was Bobbi Luttjohann, who attends the contest each year with her daughter, who also competes.
The second- and third-place winners were Rachel Osterhaus and Brett Kell, respectively.
“I do like some Porubsky’s pickles — even when it’s not a contest,” said Luttjohann, who has won second and third place in past years.
Her prize this year was $125. Cash prizes for first-, second- and third-place winners were donated by Sommerset Hall Cafe in Dover and Brown Chevy and Buick in Wamego. The pickles were donated, of course, by Porubsky’s Deli and Tavern at 508 N.E. Sardou in North Topeka, open since 1947.
The trick to making it through the hot pickle competition, said Luttjohann and others at the event, is downing the slices with enough speed to minimize the inevitable pain.
“Eat them as fast as you can,” she said, “because that way the burning is over quicker. And just try not to throw them back up.”
That sounds like a bit of a pickle. And yes, Luttjohann says, it does leave you with a burning feeling in your stomach afterward.