EXETER — Middleswarth potato chips have become a must-have for many northeastern Pennsylvanians, and that makes sense since the chips are made only about 90 miles away in Snyder County.
But on Nov. 25, about 20 Middleswarth lovers put their hearts and stomachs to the test as they competed in the third annual Middleswarth Chip-Eating Contest at Sabatini’s Bottle Shop and Bar. With just five minutes on the clock, contestants chose their favorite flavor and grabbed as many 10-ounce bags as they thought they could consume.
The contest is run by Albert Martino, owner of Northeast Snacks, which distributes the Pennsylvania-proud chips. Clad in a vest made from empty Middleswarth chip bags, Martino said he created the event as a way to have fun while helping Camp Koala — a camp designed to assist grieving children and teens.
After the bags of chips and bottles of water were laid across a table, Martino stood at one end, overlooking the competitors. They included men and women of all ages. Soon the countdown began and the bags opened, with many contestants taking their own unique approach as to the best — and fastest — way to consume the chips.
Some opted to stand while others sat. A few chose to eat just one chip at a time while their competition stacked multiple chips together. As the crowd cheered, Martino announced the halfway point, causing an uproar as onlookers pushed their friends and family to eat more.
With just one minute remaining, some competitors accepted their defeat, deciding to enjoy the snack instead of trying to win. Others, like Dan “Killer” Kennedy, decided it was time to push the chip-eating limits. When the five-minute mark hit, Martino told the group to place their bags down on the table so they could be weighed and the winner announced.
Last year’s reigning champion, Kennedy, of West Decatur, decided to participate in the contest one last time in an attempt to hold his title. Out of breath and covered with crumbs, Kennedy gulped the last of his water before he spoke.
“I like Middleswarth chips. It was actually one of my first contests when I got into competitive eating,” he said.
Although his bag had yet to be weighed, Kennedy believed he ate about 15 ounces, or a bag-and-a-half, of chips.
At the other end of the table, one Berwick family had its own contest going on.
Lydie and Steve Lopushanski both decided to compete after seeing the event on Facebook, even making a family wager as to who could eat the most chips.
“I love Middleswarth chips,” Lydie said, adding that she picked her favorite flavor, Bar-b-q. “I’m hoping to place at least top five.”
Steve admitted he is also a Middleswarth lover, but opted to devour the plain chips instead as nearly a dozen of his family members cheered him on. While he was hoping to win, his family said Lydie could eat the most chips.
What was the hardest part of the competition?
“Swallowing,” Lydie said. “They all stuck to the roof of my mouth.”
While Lydie did manage to beat her husband, Kennedy was able to keep his title. After receiving a gift basket and trophy, he announced he would not compete in the contest again to allow someone else to be declared the Middleswarth king.
Martino was happy with the turnout and believes the contest is the only one of its kind in the area.
“People are very passionate about Middleswarth,” he said with a chuckle.