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Pepper Fest spaghetti, hot-pepper eating champs crowned

Ashton Hannack, center, holds the winning Kozy Korner team’s spaghetti-eating championship plaque, flanked by teammates Nick and Cale Dahm, Andrew Ohrt and Phil Norell. (Submitted photo)1 / 6
A contestant pauses for a quick drink while her teammates cheer her on at Pepper Fest’s spaghetti-eating competition late Saturday afternoon. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Chuck Nowlen, except where noted)2 / 6
Marc Zappa, the winning Mudds N Sudds team’s first competitor, digs in at the pepper-eating contest while teammates Tom Robinson and Lon Gilbertson wait their turn.3 / 6
A large crowd had gathered near the Pepper Fest stage by the time the pepper-eating contest started around 5:30 p.m.4 / 6
A judge watches closely as Mudds N Sudds’ Steve Kapaun finishes off the last peppers on his plate.5 / 6
Before the stopwatch could be clicked off, each competitor had to demonstrate that every pepper was gone.6 / 6

Pepper Fest’s spaghetti- and pepper-eating contests wowed a large crowd last weekend with some incredible feats of consumption under the pressure of a fast-moving stopwatch and teammates’ shouts of encouragement.

The spaghetti-eating competition came first around 4 p.m. Saturday on the main stage across the street from North Hudson Village Hall.

A hungry Kozy Korner team won first place honors with a combined time of 3 minutes, 50 seconds.

The Kozy Korner squad -- Ashton Hannack, Nick and Cale Dahm, Andrew Ohrt and Phil Norell -- took home $125, a first-place plaque and championship T-shirts after gobbling three-quarter-pound plates of spaghetti in under a minute each.

Second place and $75 went to the King Stan’s Fans team.

The pepper-eating contest topped off the evening around 5:30 p.m., with an iron-stomached Mudds N Sudds team winning first place with a combined time of 1 minute, 39 seconds.

Each member of the Mudds N Sudds team –- Marc Zappa, Tom Robinson, Lon Gilbertson, and Steve and Kevin Kapaun –- finished his one-pound plate of Hungarian hot peppers in under 22 seconds.

They won $250, a championship plaque and T shirts.

North Hudson’s Village Inn team finished second, winning $150.

Five teams took part in the spaghetti competition, and six teams tackled the hot-pepper contest.

“A lot of teams and individuals have been doing this every year,” said Pepper Fest board member Holly Steele, who kept things organized and on schedule with about a half-dozen timers, judges and assistants.

“A lot of people come to Pepper Fest just to watch the eating contests. The pepper-eating, especially, always draws a large crowd –- because, really, they’re eating a lot of hot peppers up there.”

The contests have been a showcase activity at Pepper Fest for most of the festival’s 60 years in a nod to North Hudson’s rich and longtime Italian heritage, Steele said.

“I don’t know whether the teams practice for this or not,” she laughed. “Maybe that’s part of the winning secret.”

Chuck Nowlen

Chuck Nowlen joined the Star-Observer team as a business, township and general-assignment reporter in April, 2014 after a three-decade career in newspapers and magazines, and as a newsroom-management/business-planning consultant.

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