STATE COLLEGE — A 26-ounce cheesesteak stared each competitor in the face Saturday afternoon during the inaugural cheesesteak-eating competition held by Bradley’s Cheesesteaks and Hoagies at the Fall Fest downtown.
The 200 block of East Calder Way was closed as 29 participants attempted to wolf down the sandwich in the quickest time.
Chad Mueller’s hands were shaking as he devoured the steak and then soaked the bread in water before he consumed it.
“It wasn’t that bad. I could probably eat more right now,” Mueller, 21, said. “I come from Philly, so cheesesteaks are kind of my thing.”
This was Mueller’s first eating competition and something he might do again.
“It was pretty fun, and the cheesesteak was pretty good,” he said.
Mueller walked away with bragging rights and a Samsung tablet.
Around him, other competitors like Matt Rodgers, 21, of State College, and fellow Penn State students Kevin Moran, 20, and Mike Buzzell, 20, enjoyed their time in the competition, but weren’t quite as successful.
Rodgers said he was placed in a later round and was able to watch other contestants’ strategies, but didn’t do as well. There were seven rounds.
Onlooker Jamey Scovell and a group of his friends were placing $5 bets on the winners of each round. Scovell said he walked away with $100, but agreed to buy the guys drinks later that night.
Contest organizer Ben Lippincott, manager and operations partner at Bradley’s, said he wanted to set up the competition as a way to help target Penn State students to get involved in community activities and events like the Fall Fest.
“It was pretty much a success. It looks like most of these guys were students,” Lippincott said.
Lippincott said he plans to organize another eating contest next year during the Fall Fest and partner with other downtown restaurants.
This was the 14th annual Fall Fest, hosted by the Downtown State College Improvement District.
In addition to the cheesesteak-eating competition, other activities included pumpkin decorating, a bounce house for children, a rock-climbing wall, pony rides, a mini zoo, arts and crafts vendors, and an art show.
State College resident Tom Boothby called himself a “rank amateur artist” as he entered the plein air painting show. Plein air painting is a way to simply paint while being outdoors.
Dozens gathered around his easel as he painted a street view of South Allen Street.
“It’s just my way of being creative,” he said.
The Bald Eagle Valley Alpaca Ranch brought four alpacas for visitors to pet and feed, and set up near the intersection of Allen Street and Beaver Avenue.
George Arnold, Downtown State College Improvement District executive director, said that his goal was to make the downtown attractive to residents — on and off campus.
“The goal is to remind locals what a great town they have here,” Arnold said.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.