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Chicagoans Scarf Down Paczkis For Charity

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Paczki Eating Contest

Paczkis lined up for a charity paczki eating contest in Evanston on March 5, 2011. (Credit: CBS)

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EVANSTON, Ill. (WBBM) – Paczkis are a guilty pleasure for many Chicagoans this weekend, just ahead of Ash Wednesday.

But nine teams took it a step farther — battling it out Saturday in a paczki eating contest for charity outside of Bennison’s Bakery, in downtown Evanston.

Some teams told the crowd of more than 100 that they “practiced” for days ahead of the contest by downing nine Dunkin’ Donuts in three minutes. But the custard- or fruit-filled pastries were far more formidable for most.

Chris Herman and John Kehoe, of Chicago’s northwest side Edison Park neighborhood, emerged victorious. Kehoe, by his own count, ate 22 in six minutes, grabbing two fistfuls of paczkis and stuffing the last five into his mouth in the final minute.

As he clutched his stomach afterward, Kehoe said there was no secret to how he did it.

“You just gotta win. Just win, baby,” he said with a groan.

Actually, said Herman, the two gorged themselves at Bob Chinn’s Crab House, in Wheeling, Friday night in preparation.

“We had a huge lobster and crableg dinner and just passed out fat and then woke up this morning hungry, our stomachs all stretched out,” Herman said.

Asked how many paczkis he ate, Herman belched and said, “Too many.”

It was the second year for the paczki-eating contest outside of Bennison’s. Owner Jory Downer said a year ago, profits went toward Haitian earthquake relief. This year, it is benefiting someone in need much closer to home — a 10-year-old boy who was born with autism and has developed an inoperable, cancerous brain tumor. He  is at Children’s Memorial Hospital, and Downer said his parents have quit their jobs to help provide the round-the-clock care he needs.

It’s a busy time of year for Bennison’s. Downer said he expects to sell nearly 11,000 paczkis in the week leading up to Ash Wednesday. Bennison’s also sells “King” cakes, and said the bakery has sold 800 already.

“Tuesday’s going to be a killer,” he said. “We’re going to be busy, busy, busy, busy.”

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