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Pie-eating just one of the highlights of Ledyard Fair tradition

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: The Day

Published September 08. 2013 4:00AM

Ledyard - There's something about sitting at the head of the table, taking off your shirt and being announced as the defending pie-eating contest champion that makes people think twice about taking you on.

But Ryan Wade, 19, did have two challengers in the adult round on Saturday at the Ledyard Fair.

Wade won in less than 30 seconds. His method?

"I shove my face in it," he said. "I push all the pudding and whipped cream to the edge of the rim so there's nothing in the middle."

Then, while it may be disgusting, he opens his mouth and sucks in the filling all around the outside circle.

The winner and runner-up of the pie-eating contest - one of many popular traditions of the fair - each received a $25 wristband for unlimited rides, including those spinning ones where you sit in a bowl that spins on a base that spins.

Wade, former captain of the Ledyard High School wrestling team, said he wouldn't get sick.

"I have a strong stomach," he said.

The fair was expected to draw 18,000 to 20,000 people before ending this evening, with one of its favorite events still to come. Rick Maciag, who officiated the bubble-gum blowing contest dressed as a clown and served as referee during the pie-eating contest, was on deck to announce the "Redneck Olympics," scheduled for today.

Olympic events included toilet bowl seat horseshoes, pickle eating, watermelon seed-spitting and hay bale tossing.

Stephanie Frommelt of Norwich said she'd been going to the fair since she was a girl, and her grandfather would bring her to watch horse shows. Now she takes her own children. Her husband volunteers in maintenance for the fair.

"I just like that there are so many traditions," she said of the event. "The clown is one. We watch the tractor pull every year. And you've got to love the kettle corn." Her daughter, Erin, 8, won the bubble gum-blowing contest Saturday.

The fair also offered a children's pet show, a barn of cows, sheep, goats and caged rabbits and guinea pigs.

"I grew up on a farm and I've never seen rabbits that big," said Paul Benoit, of Jewett City.

Vendors sold hats, sunglasses and dreamcatchers. Local groups like the Ledyard Sophomore Class sold tickets for a shot at dunking the high school football and lacrosse coach.

Lori Daugherty, cheer coach for Ledyard High School, and cheerleaders run the pie-eating contest every year. She said adults were the most amusing to watch.

"Pretty much anything goes," she said. "A lot of people take off their shirts or put them on inside out. These people come prepared."

Carlie Smith, 13, of Groton, competed with the 8-14 age group even though she'd already eaten a corn dog, nachos, a caramel apple and shaved ice.

"Hey, a fair only comes once a year," she said.

Britney Mares, 13, of Sterling, won and set a record for the fastest time, finishing in less than 10 seconds.

"I just really like pie," she said.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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