In several minutes, Chris Sullivan will lose. He won’t even come close. He’ll give up with most of his challenge left uncompleted. He’ll leave with a stomachache and not a lot to show for it. But for now, he’s excited. Sullivan is about to take part in a burrito-eating contest hosted by Mexicali Blue. P&G’s signed on to co-host the event on the condition that money raised would go to benefit Flood Aid. Sullivan’s friend Donald Martin will win. But winning will be a mixed bag. Martin’s face will flicker from joy to a wincing grimace of pain back to joy. He’ll have achieved the dubious accomplishment of being the fastest man to wolf down a 5-pound burrito. “I want to be hopeful,” he says. “I just want to make my ancestors proud.”
Evan Martel will also lose. He won’t fail the contest outright, but apparently — just moments from now — he’ll let down most of his friends. Before his crushing defeat via a third-place finish, one of Martel’s friends, a guy named Dimitris Alexiou, demands to talk to the sporting press. He screams when he talks, leaning forward to an uncomfortable proximity.
“It’s awesome,” he yells, before cheering and slapping high-five with his friends nearby. Just beyond the range where audio identification is still possible, somebody shouts “Oh yeah, baby.” There’s the sight of quick rustling and the accompanying evasive reaction to a splash of beer hitting the wood floor. “I’m here because I have a friend who’s competing in this thing. And I get to see him in something that’s a first in New Paltz.”
Martel, a member of the college soccer team, says he’s been preparing for the eating contest by going to Olive Garden and gorging on endless pasta bowls. This will not help him much. In the race of 10 competitive burrito eaters, almost nothing will have prepared any of them.
With the music so loud, the crowd so thick and the burrito contest table so hidden from view, only a few people seem to realize that this gluttonous race to finish Mexican food coexists with their normal, Thursday-night race to get sloshed. Only after the chanting and screaming intensifies — “Evan! Evan! Evan!” — and the crowd is pushed back from the table do some stragglers pick up that a special event is occurring.
“Do you know what’s going on over there?” a girl with quick dark eyebrows asks.
“Some burrito thing,” a young man answers back.
As the 10 competitive eaters take their seats, the bar gets even louder and more crowded.
Ten plated burritos appear, whisked in by caterers wearing black shirts. Only these burritos are the size of a good, fire-starting log and the weight of a newborn child. Sal Nicolosi, the creator of the “First Annual Giant Burrito Eating Contest,” looks around to size up the monster he’s made, before making his way behind the table to start the contest. A quick look of worry lights his face, before a resolute and confident calm takes over. Nicolosi welcomes people, he thanks them and explains the rules. Contestants have to eat the one giant burrito and the accompanying sides of coleslaw and salsa as quickly as possible. Winners are determined by speed and completion. First place goes to the fastest eater, second to the second-fastest and so on.
Anyone unlucky enough to give up with food still on the plate is automatically disqualified. Winners got gift certificates to eat at the taco shop hosting the contest.
Martin, who eventually won the contest as the clear leader, didn’t have much to say after winning — only that the right strategy involves not wasting time picking apart the burrito with a fork.
Only three people had the digestive fortitude to finish the contest, and the other seven gave up. Here are the winners and their times:
• First place: Donald Martin, with a final time of 6 minutes, 7 seconds.
• Second place: Edward Salas, with a final time of 18 minutes, 25 seconds.
• Third place: Evan Martel, with a final time of just more than 28 minutes.
As of press time, it wasn’t immediately clear how much money had been raised through Mexicali Blue’s burrito contest. Nicolosi said the proceeds still needed to be counted for Flood Aid.
Flood Aid continues to bring in money for local farmers
It might come as a surprise that local events like Mexicali Blue burrito-eating contest at P&G’s are still bringing in money for the Flood Aid charity. However, long after the Oct. 16 concert, donations were still rolling in, according to Theresa Fall, of Flood Aid.
All told, the fund drive brought in approximately $60,000 through the concert at Hasbrouck Park, online donations through PayPal and small events like the eating contest. Outside of the burrito thing, Stop & Shop in New Paltz donated $1,000 to Flood Aid, which was matched and topped with another $5,000 from the grocery store’s corporate headquarters in Massachusetts.
One local kindergarten class, Rebecca Burdett’s at Duzine Elementary School, staged an organic apple pie auction to help raise money for Flood Aid that ended up bringing in $100.
According to Fall, the charity is due to close up shop soon. Part of that has to do with how long farmers harmed by Tropical Storm Irene have gone without.
“We were starting to get questions from farmers asking when that money is coming in,” the Flood Aid volunteer explained. One reason that the charity did wait was to allow money to arrive after the concert. “Donations were coming in for the next couple of weeks after the event.”
Flood Aid plans to close up shop this Monday and turn the money over to local growers who saw their crops washed away in the storm. ++