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Thursday, Aug 16, 2018
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Contestant holds in shortcake long enough for eating competition victory

PLANT CITY - Ken Rozon knew it was inevitable as he crammed in bite after bite Thursday at the Florida Strawberry Festival shortcake eating contest. To throw up during the contest meant disqualification. Nauseated as he was, the 54-year-old managed to keep it all in – and seal the win. But no sooner had emcee Wesley Rounds declared Rozon the victor when the double-decker shortcake he nearly devoured came back up. He barfed into a blue barrel placed behind the contestants just for such emergencies. “The longer the contest went on, the sicker I felt but I was determined to win,” said Rozon, an audio-visual technician from Ontario, Canada.
Each of the 10 contestants tries to eat 4 pounds of shortcake in 10 minutes. During the final 4 minutes, their spoons are taken away and they have to use their hands. The first contestant who eats all 4 pounds – that didn’t happen Thursday – wins. In the alternative, the person who leaves the least amount of shortcake gets the victory. Rozon left 1 pound, 1 ounce of uneaten shortcake, edging out Ken Smith of Apopka, who couldn’t cram in the last 1 pound, 5 ounces. Four women competed this year, including 39-year-old Teresa McCoy of Tampa, who didn’t make much of a dent in her dessert. “It was harder than I thought,” she said. Still, she was glad she entered the contest for the first time, adding, “I love everything strawberry.” The contest, which began at least 40 years ago, is sponsored by St. Clement Catholic Church, which operates one of three shortcake booths on the festival grounds. This was the first shortcake eating contest since the death of Barbara Caccamisi, a St. Clement church member who organized it for many years. The competition began with a tribute to Caccamisi, who died Aug. 18 at age 66 after a bout with cancer. For his win, Rozon received a trophy topped with a replica of a pig – and two tickets for free shortcake at St. Clement’s booth. Rozon, who said he likes shortcake, was glad he competed. “It was a day of firsts for me,” he said. “My first strawberry festival and my first eating contest. What a day.”
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