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Justin Trowbridge attacked a chocolate pie in front of him Wednesday like his life depended on it.
The 10-year-old devoured the pastry with a ravenous appetite as his mother and family cheered him on and laughed at his determination.
“Keep eating, baby,” his mother, Christy, encouraged.
“I think he needs a snorkle,” an onlooker said.
Trowbridge’s valiant effort was enough to nab honors in a pie eating contest, one of the more popular events at Elizabethtown’s first Founders Day Celebration. The event attracted a laid-back crowd that lazed under scarce shade at Freeman Lake Park, retreating from the heat of the day.
Trowbridge came up short, but the apparent winner was disqualified because he scooped part of his pie into a friend’s plate, which violated the rules.
Angela Ashlock was snapping photos as her children, Kendall and Garrett, dug into pies. The challenge required contestants to keep their hands pinned behind their backs and to “lick the plate clean,” according to Elizabethtown events coordinator Sarah Vaughn.
“That’s the only reason they wanted to come,” Ashlock said. “That and the fireworks.”
Ashlock also reflected on the prospect of upset stomachs.
“No, I’m not,” she said when asked if she was ready for sick tummies. “But that’s what moms do.”
Elizabethtown Police Officer Jonathan Curl also devoured pie and cracked a few jokes before the contest.
“Worker’s comp if I throw up,” Curl said as his fellow officers wished him luck.
EPD Chief Tracy Schiller was impressed with Curl’s performance.
“I think he learns from this, and next year, he’ll be a formidable opponent,” Schiller said, joking Curl’s fellow officers will inundate him with pies and post photographs on Facebook.
The celebration opened early Wednesday morning with a 5K at the park. The run was organized by the city in conjunction with local military charity USA Cares. Mayor Tim Walker said the 5K attracted around 300 people, which doubled the estimated number of participants and raised thousands of dollars for USA Cares.
Evening activities kicked off with a short skit recounting the acceptance of Elizabethtown’s city charter on July 4, 1797. Live music from local act 3 on the Floor and John Parr followed the pie eating contest leading into the fireworks display, which was heavily controlled by the Elizabethtown Fire Department because of dry conditions.
Walker said heat dampened the crowd, but he was confident the city would learn from its first year.
“If it was 10 degrees cooler, we’d have a lot bigger crowd,” Walker said. “I think the heat hurt us.”
Vaughn said Severns Valley Baptist Church offered “lots of volunteers” to clean tables, help backstage, work the kids’ play area and park cars.
“I wouldn’t be able to pull this off without them,” she said.
As daylight bled into darkness, couples and families moved closer to the bandstand, draping blankets across the grass and huddling closer together.
Radcliff couple Lindsay and Byron Ford had never been to Freeman Lake Park before but were pleased with the setting, looking for a “chill” way to enjoy the holiday.
“We were lying around the pool earlier and decided we didn’t want to go all out for the day,” Lindsay Ford said.