PLANT CITY — Jeremy Lloyd, who works in concessions on the Florida Strawberry Festival midway, entered Thursday’s famous shortcake-eating contest on a whim.
He certainly didn’t expect to win, but he walked away with the top prize.
Lloyd devoured 4 pounds of the dessert in 7 minutes, 23 seconds to take home a trophy topped with a replica of a pig. His time, while nowhere near the 4 minute, 40 second record set in 2010, was still impressive.
“This man can eat a lot of shortcake,” contest co-chairman Paul Hetrick said.
Lloyd, who was participating in his first eating contest, said he didn’t skip breakfast or otherwise prepare his tastebuds - or stomach - for his feast of dessert.
“I didn’t even know I was going to enter this,” he said.
The more than 40-year-old competition is sponsored by St. Clement Catholic Church, which operates a shortcake booth on the festival grounds. Festival Queen Jessi Rae Varnum and her court members helped cheer on the contestants.
As he was awarded his trophy, the 32-year-old Lloyd motioned toward Varnum and quipped, “I don’t get a pretty crown like the princess over there?”
Contest emcee Wesley Rounds playfully responded, “if you were as pretty as she was, you’d get a crown, too.”
The 10 contestants had up to 10 minutes to eat as much shortcake as possible, including the last 3 minutes when they had to use their hands.
The contest ends before the time limit if a contestant finishes all 4 pounds, as Lloyd did Thursday.
The competition is one of the highlights of the festival, which runs daily through Sunday.
Lloyd was cheered on by co-workers as he took an early lead and never let up.
The oldest contestant, 85-year-old Sam Crain of Lakeland, had a cheering section of his own, including his wife of 64 years, Niki, and fellow members of Bethel Baptist Church.
Crain, a retiree, barely put a dent in his 4-pounds of cake. But he was glad he entered.
“I didn’t care if I won or lost,” he said. “I love shortcake. I had three before I even got to the contest. I got a big kick out of participating.”