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updated: 6/19/2017 10:41 AM

Competitive eaters in training down watermelon in Libertyville

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  • Emma Withycombe, 8, laughs as she prepares to compete in a watermelon-eating contest Sunday during Libertyville Days in Cook Park. She won the 8- to 9-year-old girls division.

      Emma Withycombe, 8, laughs as she prepares to compete in a watermelon-eating contest Sunday during Libertyville Days in Cook Park. She won the 8- to 9-year-old girls division.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Tyler Madden of Libertyville chews his way through to the rind in a watermelon-eating contest Sunday during Libertyville Days in Cook Park in Libertyville. Tyler won in the 8- to 9-year-old boys division.

      Tyler Madden of Libertyville chews his way through to the rind in a watermelon-eating contest Sunday during Libertyville Days in Cook Park in Libertyville. Tyler won in the 8- to 9-year-old boys division.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Parents gather and watch their children compete in a watermelon-eating contest Sunday during Libertyville Days in Cook Park.

      Parents gather and watch their children compete in a watermelon-eating contest Sunday during Libertyville Days in Cook Park.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

The next Joey "Jaws" Chestnut could have been among the dozens of suburban kids who lined up Sunday for the Kiwanis Club's annual watermelon-eating contest at Libertyville Days.

The competitive eaters in training -- or, some admitted, simply watermelon aficionados -- stood poised, holding their triangular slices a few inches from their wide open mouths, until the sticky sweet race to the rind began.

"Don't throw up!" grand master of ceremonies Todd Seiler told participants, as parents of the 6- to 13-year-old eaters shouted from the crowd important admonishments to chew and swallow.

Eight-year-old Tyler Madden of Gurnee had a practiced typewriter motion down pat as he churned through a slice to become the 8- and 9-year-old boys champion. The secret? "I practiced," Madden shrugged afterward, seemingly unphased by his juice-stained arms and shirt.

Emma Withycombe, also 8, removed a dainty pink headband before she got down to business, bursting into giggles as she bested her friends.

Meanwhile, Jerry Langfeldt fist-bumped his wife as 10-year-old son Andrew demolished his slice head and shoulders above the competition.

"That's my boy!" he shouted.

Members of the Kiwanis club said they've been sponsoring the contest for more than 20 years.

On average, President Theresa Walker said, 10 to 12 watermelons are slayed per competition.

The Libertyville Days festival, an annual fundraising event to support the Libertyville Civic Center competition, also featured competitive jalapeño eating and hot dog eating as part of the weekend's festivities.

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