March 26, 2012
Marathon celebrates Maple Fest
Pancake eating contest raises $6,207 for area nonprofits
MARATHON — Smother in syrup, roll it, dunk it, chew — repeat.
That was the favored method for the nine candidates at the annual pancake eating competition to open the 42nd Central New York Maple Festival.
The competition, which raises money for local charities, featured three Marathon high school students, four men and one woman.
Marathon resident Connie White presided over the competition, introducing the eaters and the 2012 Maple Queen, Rebecca Veninsky.
The competition started 16 years ago but it did not really become popular until it was made a fundraising event, White said.
“We found out in the beginning people didn’t want to be up there alone, so we made it teams,” she said. “Then we finally switched to doing it for a nonprofit.”
As Veninsky’s first official duty, she dropped the ceremonial sap bucket on the auditorium floor, the signal for eaters to begin cramming pancakes into their mouths.
In the end, reigning champion Bill Tillotson of Lisle beat out eight competitors, downing 20 pancakes in 15 minutes.
The champion’s experience showed from the start and he quickly stood up, rolled his first pancake and plowed through a stack of three pancakes.
“I feel good,” he said afterward “I wasn’t jumping around as much this year. The pancakes were a bit different and I needed a bit more water.”
The Marathon field hockey team did the honors of serving the eaters stacks of three pancakes wrapped in foil.
Tillotson raised money for the United Methodist Church. All of the charities that were represented on the stage are important, he said.
“There are people out there who need help and assistance,” he said. “If we can help them, it’s better for everyone in the end.”
Last year Tillotson downed 26 pancakes. This year he took the time to enjoy himself. The pancakes were larger as well, he said.
“They’re bigger this year, so I slowed down around 10,” he said. “Last year I started to feel it around number 24.”
Tillotson, who could be mistaken for a NFL lineman, nearly lost to a quiet, shaggy-haired 16 year-old.
In second place, ripping his pancakes into pieces before eating them was Jason Wood, who finished 19 pancakes.
Wood, who raised money for the Family Resource Center, said afterward he thoroughly enjoyed his first time in competition.
“I feel great,” he said. “I’m pretty proud of myself, I thought I was at 12 and then they said 19.”
The Family Resource Center, which is run by the Cortland County Community Action Program, provides a variety of services, include emergency assistance, nutrition and cooking classes, and activities for children.
All of the competitors raised money for their charities of choice. Some of it was through flat donations, the rest was through a pledged donation per pancake.
The nine eaters raised a total of $6,207.
New Hope Mills donated the pancake mix and the company’s president, Dale Weed, was on hand to watch his product disappear down the throats of Marathon’s best eaters.
The family-owned company in Cayuga County enjoys supporting local festivals, Weed said.
“It’s important to support these festivals,” he said. “We get a lot of our business from the region so we like to come out and support regional events.”
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