MORRIS – A little rain couldn't stop the 12th annual Grundy County Bank-WCSJ/WJDK Hot Dog Eating Contest on Friday.
The event normally is held on the courthouse lawn, but inclement weather forced it to be moved to the Fraternal Order of Eagles' hall across the street from the courthouse.
"We had a pretty good turnout, even with the weather," said Kevin Olson, Grundy County Bank president and CEO. "It was good to see so many people show up and donate."
The goal of the event was to raise money for charity, and eight contestants combined to bring in more than $3,000.
Morris Herald-News news editor Kevin Solari, raising money for United Way, won the prize for the most money raised with $1,499. It was the seventh straight year United Way has raised the most money.
Next was Mike Wickkiser, who raised $578 for YMCA, followed by Patrick Barrins ($525 for Just Animals Shelter), David Valdivia ($320 for Morris Soccer Boosters), Jason Helland ($139 for Habitat for Humanity), Eric Fisher ($122 for We Care), Greg Butterfield ($103 for Grundy County Explorers) and Jason McNabb ($79 for Grundy Resource Organization).
WCSJ's Mike Williams, the event's emcee, explained the rules of the contest. Each contestant had two minutes to eat as many hot dogs as they could. If the last bite of the hot dog was in the contestant's mouth at the end of the allotted time, it would count. In the event of a tie, there would be an eat-off, in which those tied would try to eat another hot dog the fastest.
The contestants had differing strategies. Four-time defending champion Valdivia and Butterfield ate as quickly as they could, gulping water to help them swallow. Solari came to the table with a tackle box filled with condiments. Both he and Helland seemed more concerned with quality over quantity, and each ended up with a fully loaded Chicago-style dog before the event was over.
"I wasn't going to win the eating contest, so I figured I could at least make the hot dog taste good," Solari said. "Hot dogs are serious business."
After two minutes, Butterfield and Valdivia were tied with five each. Butterfield finished his hot dog first in the tiebreaker and emerged as the new champion.
"I'm not going to lie," said Butterfield, a Grundy County Sheriff's deputy. "I have been practicing at home a little bit. I did five in two minutes. I figured I would have a decent chance with that number. I really didn't think I would be able to win in the eat-off, though. I was a little nervous about that."
The contest provided fun for participants and the crowd, but the real winners of the day were the charities that benefited.
"The Explorers are a great group of kids," Butterfield said. "It's an off-shoot of the Boy Scouts. ... They will ride with us, do traffic stops, stuff like that. It lets them know what law enforcement is about and gives them a chance to see if they want to pursue it.
"The money we raise for them will help them go to camps, like FBI camp and others. There were four of them here in the crowd today, so that was fun."
Heidi Litchfield, founder and director of Grundy Resource Organization, was glad to be part of the event.
"For GRO, this is not about hot dogs," she said. "It's about getting our name out there and letting people know what we do. ... Earlier this week, we gave out hot dogs and bacon and other groceries at Saratoga Tower and fed 60 residents. Events like this can help put us on the map and let people know what we are trying to do."