In Weehawken, it has become as much a part of the summer fabric as baseball, the backyard picnic and hot weather.
The annual pie-eating and watermelon-eating contests for the township's youngsters have been an annual tradition, dating back even before the current mayor arrived on the scene 19 years ago.
"They've been around at least for as long as I have," said Mayor Richard Turner, who first arrived in Weehawken as the state-appointed township manager in 1982, last week.
Try even longer.
"I've been involved with recreation for 20 years," said the township's recreation director, Chuck Barone. "And I know they go back even further before me."
No one knows exactly when the eating contests began, but there are a few local residents who remember participating in similar contests when they were youngsters growing up in the township. And needless to say, they're not so young anymore.
When the township's recreation department maps out its strategy to coordinate events for the youngsters of the town throughout the summer months, there is one event where the entire program starts and ends - and it's the annual eating contests.
"No question," Barone said. "It's the first thing we plan. The kids always are looking forward to it. It's a regular."
It's also a no-brainer. What does it take to coordinate? A few hundred pies? A few hundred watermelons? A few hungry kids with no regard for their faces or their clothing?
Throw in a couple of trophies, a lot of smiles and a ton of laughs and you have a slice - pardon the pun - of traditional Americana that has become a major part of Weehawken's summer tradition.
As the summer recreation program wound down, it was only fitting that the contests be held.
"It's a good, fun way to wrap up the summer programs," Turner said.
In the case of the watermelon-eating contest, the youngsters are given a good slice of watermelon and are asked to eat the juicy fruit as fast as possible.
Now, we all know there's a slight deterrent when trying to eat watermelon as quickly as possible - but the youngsters want no part of anything that is going to slow them down.
"They don't care about the pits," Barone said. "Some take the time to spit the pits out, but let's be honest. Most of them just keep eating."
Yup, pits and all. Yummy.
Fruit on their faces
Many of the youngsters end up wearing a good portion of the fruit on their faces, because after all, that's part of the fun, making a mess.
However, if you thought the watermelon-eating contest was a sloppy affair, don't even go near the pie-eating event. This is a Laundromat's dream, an intensified Tide commercial in the making.
"They just stick their entire heads into the pie and mess it up real good," Barone said.
That's because the use of hands is prohibited.
Of course, the traditional apple pies are used, but they're not quite as messy and as laundry challenging as the blueberry pies. For good measure, the organizers of the event put a heaping helping of whipped cream on each pie, for more effect.
"We add a lot of whipped cream," Barone said. "We had this one little boy, must have been about six years old, who didn't want to eat the pie. He didn't care if he won the contest. He just wanted the whipped cream, so we just kept putting whipped cream on his pie. And he was having a blast. It was hysterical."
Barone said that his workers all love to watch the kids dig in, literally head first.
"It's a lot of fun to see the kids' reactions," Barone said. "And of course, the more messy they get, the more fun they have. They think it's a big joke if they make a mess. But after the contests are over, they're still eating watermelon and pie. The parents seem to have a lot of fun as well."
Until they get home and try to tackle those blueberry stains.
Turner and Deputy Mayor Lou Ferullo were on hand to distribute the awards to the winners. Four children, namely Luis Best, Tommy Portillo, Joseph Reyes and Enrique Romero, were such talented eaters that they collected trophies in both the watermelon and pie-eating contests.
"It really was a lot of fun," Turner said. "The kids ate everything on their plates and the good news is that no one got sick. But it is a fun night, a lot of safe fun. I think it's our largest continuous activity, other than our regular sports programs. Everyone looks forward to it, so we'll continue to have it. It's part of the traditional American summer fun and we're glad to be able to do it."
With the popularity of the eating contests, which drew approximately 100 youngsters to participate, Barone is looking to expand the contests to possibly include hot dogs and/or pizza next year.
"Nathan's already has a popular hot dog-eating contest," Barone said. "I can't see why we can't have a hot dog contest. And I see where some towns are trying pizza. We may try both."
At least residents of Weehawken have a full year to stock up on laundry detergent and antacids.