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Workers pass out pickles during the final round of the annual pickle eating contest at Bagel Street Deli on March 20, 2015. The winner of the contest got a T-shirt and were able to create their own sandwich and name it to be on the menu. Contestants paid five dollars to participate and all of the money was matched by Bagel Street Deli and donated to a local charity. 

Annual Pickle Fest to raise money for previous employee's memorial scholarship

Pickle Fest participants have the opportunity to create their own sandwich if they win, and all money raised at the event will go toward the Kyra Kurt Willner Global Travel Scholarship.

While some associate fest season with binge drinking and Fetty Wap, Bagel Street Deli associates the season with a prize-winning pickle eating contest.

“First of all, if you have a big mouth and you like pickles, then hey, Pickle Fest is for you,” Kara Vetere, a senior studying child and family studies, said.

The 17th annual Pickle Fest will take place Friday at 4 p.m. The rules are straightforward — the participant who eats the most full-size deli dill pickles in 10 minutes wins.

The prize includes a T-shirt and the opportunity to create a personalized bagel sandwich that will be on the Bagel Street Deli menu forever, Lenny Meyer, the owner of Bagel Street Deli at 27 S. Court St., said.

The idea of getting to create a customized  “bagelwich” to be put on the Bagel Street Deli board is “a pretty big deal,” Meyer said.

Jacob Pratt, who won the event last year by eating nine pickles, said the method for eating pickles is to eat them like corn on the cob at first and then eat the center like a hot dog.

“The hardest part was watching other people not eat pickles while I was eating them,” Pratt, a junior studying special education at the University of Cincinnati, said. “I realized how gross it was.”

Pickle Fest is loud and cramped, but Pratt said the environment is just awesome and suggested everyone participate in it.

“It’s definitely interesting,” Meyer said. “It’s high energy and it gets a lot of hype and excitement from people who are actually doing it.”

The previous owners began Pickle Fest, and Meyer has continued the tradition since obtaining Bagel Street Deli 13-years-ago. He said over time, the number of people who have competed in the event has kept “creeping upward.”

“There wasn’t any particular (reason) it started besides entertainment,” Meyer said.

When Vetere first saw the pickle she was supposed to eat quickly, she said she was astounded at the size and didn’t understand how she was supposed to be able to fit the whole thing in her mouth.

Participants of the event are asked to make a $5 donation to charity, and Bagel Street Deli will match any donation made. Every year the charity changes, but this year the money will go toward the Kyra Kurt Willner Global Travel Scholarship to honor the visual communication student and previous Bagel Street Deli worker who died in a car crash in December, Meyer said.

“The draw of the event is that it’s for charity,” Pratt said. “Even if you don’t think you’ll win, it’s all for charity in the end and it’s an awesome (cause).”

Because there is usually a big crowd, the competition is broken up into rounds with usually 12 people participating per round until everyone has taken a turn at eating the most pickles they possibly can, Meyer said.

Since Bagel Street Deli is small and has a “laid-back” atmosphere, Vetere said, it makes the participant feel very relaxed about having to eat a bunch of pickles in a competition.

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“Whether you like pickles or don’t like pickles, it's a fun experience to do … while you're here in Athens,” Vetere said. “Where else are you going to (experience) a pickle eating contest?”

The all-time record for the most pickles eaten at Pickle Fest is 13. The recird is held by both Ben Kuhl and Mike Logue, who are both three-time champions of Pickle Fest, Meyer said.

“It's a pretty funny event,” Meyer said. “It also can border on the absurd as well, and sort of (disgusting) at the same time.”

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