Twelve hardy souls began the contest, but after only four cloves, most dropped to the side. That left only the hardest of the hard-core garlic eaters left in the annual contest at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in rainy Orange today. Eyes tearing, up, they chomped down clove after clove, encircled by a crowd of queasy onlookers, like me, all saying, “God, how can they possibly eat that?”
True to the motto of the festival, (“the Festival that stinks!) now in its 13th year, these competitors would indeed stink for a week after they finished the challenge. In a post-contest interview, Rachel Lomeli of East Longmeadow was indeed exhaling a potent waft of the stinking rose.
I asked her why she does it, since this was her fourth attempt to win the garlic eating crown. “I just don’t like to lose,” she said, as she ate some El Jardin bread in attempt to calm the fire in her belly after 38 cloves. Four years ago, Rachel won by eating 59 cloves.
There were three remaining garlic eaters–Dan Bolton, of Athol, Rachel and a youngster who dropped out just as the competition switched from chomping one bulb on cue to how many they could chow down in one minute. That left Rachel and Dan…who tied at 37 when Dan popped in last bulb into his mouth to win.
How do you feel now, we asked him, as he stood with his basket of loot, the winner’s prizes . He said he wished the festival organizers still offered winners the tee shirt that said “WINNER, Garlic Eating Contest–Stand Back I Eat Raw Garlic!” Instead he was content with his fame, his triumph and a jar of roasted garlic and some olives. “My mouth is on fire,” he admitted. Last year he said the garlic was more intense that this year’s servings, and both contestants ate a dozen fewer then than this year.