COEUR d’ALENE — When Lauren Bergendahl began setting up for the watermelon-eating contest Thursday afternoon at the North Idaho State Fair, there wasn’t a kid in sight.
Twenty minutes later, two tables at the Jacklin Stage were filled with boys and girls, each with a slice of juicy, red watermelon in front of them.
Where did they all come from?
It was easy, said Bergendahl, with the Junior Fair Advisory Board. She just walked around and said, “We’re having a watermelon-eating contest.”
“And they all came,” she said.
Contests are popular at the fair. Pie-eating. Oreo-stacking. Even corn-shucking.
Sure, there are ribbons on the line, and bragging rights, but it’s all just for fun at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.
And on an 85-degree, sunny afternoon, fun they had.
But first, the rules.
Don’t start eating until Bergendahl says “Go.” Keep your hands behind your back.
“Make sure you eat as much as you possibly can and when you’re done, throw your hands straight up in the sky so I can see that you’re all done,” Bergendahl said.
With that, it was time for mouth and melon to meet.
Five-year-old Dominic Carhart of Athol somehow ended up with the biggest piece of watermelon. He had to stop every few bites to get a breath, and still almost won.
“It’s my favorite food,” he said.
Some ate too fast.
“My tummy hurts but I’m still going to eat it,” said one little girl.
Shelby Roberge of Rathdrum, at the fair with her rescue horse, Liberty, was hungry and decided to jump in. She put up a good fight.
“I'm a slow eater so that was it for me,” she said.
The surprising winner was a smiling 7-year-old, Noemi Arafelis.
She said she came to the fair to have fun, “but instead I figured out there was a watermelon-eating contest."
Noemi chomped her way to a big lead and held off challengers with some last nibbles.
“Just keep eating.”