New winner in Ansonia Mardi Gras competition

Contestants battle in the annual Fat Tuesday Paczki Eating Contest at Eddy's Bake Shop in Ansonia (WTNH / Kent Pierce)

ANSONIA, Conn (WTNH)- You don’t have to go to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. For the 17th year, they’re putting the “Fat” in Fat Tuesday with an eating contest in Ansonia.

Paczkis have been described as jelly doughnuts on steroids. Ten contestants sat down in Eddy’s Bake Shop in Ansonia just after 8 a.m. for the annual paczki-eating contest.

“A paczki is like a big huge doughnut, with butter,” explained Mike Ciocca of Eddy’s. “It’s heavier than a doughnut and it’s got lots of fillings.”

The old Polish tradition is to use up all that good stuff before Lent begins. Stuffing as much of it in your face as possible in five minutes only started here 17 years ago. Marcus “Buff” Bartone won last year, and he’s been competing ever since his daughter Sydney died of Neuroblastoma in 2007.

“It’s a rare cancer that affects children,” said Bartone. “What we’ve done in the process is create a foundation and any event that we can get into to try and raise awareness is what we do.”

As a special incentive this year, the winner of the eating contest get to be Ansonia’s ‘Mayor for a day’.

“Comes to my office and we’ll pass some legislation,” said the real Ansonia Mayor, David Cassetti. There is an important exception, however. The winner must live in Ansonia to qualify for Mayor. After all, he wouldn’t want somebody from Derby in Charge. “It’s got to be an Ansonia resident, yes.”

Eddy’s Bake Shop itself opened in Ansonia 50 years ago. Eddy’s grandkids now run it. They plan as year-long celebration. The Mardi Gras eating contest with its $200 prize is just one of the events, but it’s the best known.

“People were having big parades and eating contests and stuff,” Ciocca said. “We thought it was something we should get into. And since then, it just grew and grew every year.”

Speaking of growing, reigning champ “Buff” put up a good fight, but a newcomer, Manny “The Manimal” Cambra, put away an even dozen in what he says is only his second eating contest ever.

“I definitely underestimated how much was inside it,” Cambra said. “You know, you pick it up, it’s a nice airy, fluffy doughnut, and then all of a sudden there’s a lot of filling inside it.”

Since Manny lives in Bethel, however, he does not get to be Ansonia Mayor for a day. He probably won’t be hungry all day either.

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