I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Crosslake’s annual ice-cream eating contest draws crowds

WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY KATE PERKINS

Pat Netko, owner of Lake Country Crafts and Cones and emcee of the annual ice cream eating contest at her store, asks the gathered crowd trivia questions in between rounds at the contest.
Ben Klemme, of Madison, chows down on ice cream at the 2016 ice cream-eating contest at Lake Country Crafts and Cones. As the only child in the preschool to 5 years old category, he had lots of encouragement.

LAKE COUNTRY CRAFTS AND CONES IN CROSSLAKE SELLS MORE SCOOPED KEMPS ICE CREAM THAN ANYWHERE IN THE STATE. Owner Pat Netko reports that the store goes through nearly three-thousand three-gallon tubs a year. And while the statistic is impressive, it’s not necessarily surprising. A trip to the store on a hot summer day shows long lines and happy people of all ages, sitting outside in the sunshine and chowing down on waffle cones. After all, there’s not much that tastes better than cold, sweet ice cream on a hot Minnesota day.

And while there’s a happy crowd at Crafts and Cones essentially every day all summer long, there’s one day in particular when people flock to the store from across the state and, indeed, from across the nation. It’s the second Thursday in August, and it’s the day of the annual ice cream-eating contest.

The contest costs $1 to enter and starts in the afternoon, with competitors divided by age group. The older the age group, the more difficult the rules of the contest—but not a single person gets to use a spoon. Every participant is presented with a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate syrup and whip cream.

In the youngest age groups, contestants are allowed to use their hands to eat the ice cream or pick up their bowl. They also get a break in the middle so they don’t get an ice cream headache.As the age groups get older, though, the contestants get no break, can’t pick up their bowls, and can’t touch the ice cream with their hands. In the adult age group, everyone dives face-first into the ice cream to try to be the fastest eater.

Netko says she’s frequently had more than a hundred people at the annual contest, and she believes she’s easily had contestants from every state in the nation. One year someone had come all the way from Australia. She knows because in between rounds, Netko asks the crowd questions, such as who’s traveled the farthest, who’s the oldest, and items of local trivia. The winners get prizes, and in the meantime bowls of ice cream are scooped for the next round of competition.

 

Hudson Goods, of Pequot Lakes, smiles after winning a third-place victory in the ice cream-eating contest at Lake Country Crafts and Cones.

The contest is held outside, rain or shine. “We can’t have it inside. It’s too messy,” Netko explains simply. Since there are no spoons involved, the mess is part of the fun. And the winners aren’t allowed to clean their faces until after their picture is taken for the local papers.

Netko said there was one competitor who won the adult division ten years in a row. He could eat a bowl of ice cream so fast that Netko needed extra judges. She has since learned that the man was taking ibuprofen in advance, which allowed him to avoid the ice cream headache that slows most competitors down. Since then his techniques have been emulated, but Netko says that his winning streak was broken only due to his inability to attend a couple years back.

Every year the $1 contest is enjoyed by all. The winners get coupons for more ice cream, and everyone, no matter the age, gets a face full of ice cream.

If you can’t make it to the ice cream-eating contest and still crave a tasty challenge, you better do the Doozie. The Doozie is three scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone and is Crafts and Cones’ signature, year-round ice cream challenge. The tradition was started by the store’s previous owners, Alden and Mary Hardwick. Everyone who attempts the Doozie gets his or her photo taken and added to a rotating electronic picture frame. At one time the Doozie doer’s photo was taken with a Polaroid camera, but the ice cream shop has since entered the digital age. Young and old continue to hold up the giant cone full of ice cream and a whiteboard with their name and hometown.

Netko has the photos on display in the store and on the Crafts and Cones Facebook page, where there are hundreds of photos of those who’ve taken on the challenge. Netko remembers one customer who took on the challenge twice in a row. He ate two Doozies in less than an hour. Since each Doozie is three scoops, it’s about a quart of ice cream in each cone. What flavor did he choose? Zanzibar chocolate, a dark chocolate flavor, for all three scoops in both cones.

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