World records. Pretzels. The Malted Barley. Competitive eaters. Billy Gilman singing the national anthem. What do all of these things have in common? They are all part of the first Malted Barley World Pretzel-Eating Championship taking place at PVDFest this year.
Before sitting down to speak with Malted Barley owner Ron Koller, you wouldn’t think much of a pretzel-eating contest hosted by a local bar. However, upon further investigation, you’d find your assumptions were a gross underestimation. The contest is going to be much bigger than a street side attraction.
“It’s going to be spectacular...we could have 20,000 to 25,000 people,” says Ron with all the zeal that P.T. Barnum probably had when he opened up his circus. The contest will include 12 participants, 10 who are ranked competitive eaters and two contestants from Rhode Island, on stage in Kennedy Plaza. The event will be regulated by Major League Eating, a sanctioned sport group (yes, sport group) that officiates world eating championships. Whoever can eat the most pretzels in a matter of minutes wins a cash prize, holds a world record, and reaps the glory of a first-place competitive eater.
The idea for the pretzel eating contest came to Ron and his wife at a state fair in Wisconsin. The fair hosted the world’s first cheese curd competitive eating contest, and watching the contestants devour the dairy product sparked inspiration for the couple. Ron called the Major League Eating Federation to inquire if anyone had done a competitive pretzel-eating contest. Turns out, it had never been attempted.
“It was like fate, it was like karma,” Ron recalls. “We have to do this.”
If this year’s inaugural contest goes well, Ron hopes to expand the affair with qualifying events leading up to the championship in Providence. Ideally, he’d like to hold smaller contests at his Malted Barley locations in Westerly and Juno Beach, Florida (now under construction). The winners would travel up to Rhode Island’s capital to have a stab at the world record.
The Malted Barley World Pretzel-Eating Championship will be held at Kennedy Plaza as part of PVDFest June 8 at 3pm.