Canteen eating contest creates local hype, draws national attention

The Canteen Eating Contest will take place June 2nd in Ottumwa's Central Park at 1 pm. (Photo: Canteen in the Alley)

Ottumwa. The City of Bridges. The City of Canteens.

“For a couple years I had the idea of doing a canteen eating contest and making it a panel of eaters and making it people pitted against one another,” Canteen in the Alley General Manager Lindsey Newland said.

One of the most anticipated events this summer is the Canteen Eating Contest that will take place in Ottumwa’s Central Park on June 2nd.

Nine Major League Eating sanctioned eaters from around the world will descend upon Ottumwa to compete in the competition. That leaves room for three Ottumwa locals.

“There’s a lot of people contacting us through email and Facebook and several more people that have come in here and they’ve been trying to build up, and we have a lot of interest and were just telling them to go on to and fill out their application,” Newland continued.

(Note: The registration period will begin on April 2nd. At that time, a registration form will be active on the link above for open registration.)

This will be the first official world record for the most Canteens eaten over a 10 minute period.

The only comparable record to the Canteen eating contest KTVO could find was a 3/4 pound hamburger eating contest that also had a 10 minute time limit.

The winner, who ate 7 of those burgers over that time span, was 50-year-old Sonya Thomas. Thomas, who's known as "The Black Widow", weighs in at 105 pounds, according to her Major League Eating bio.

Even local Ottumwa celebrity Tom Arnold has shown interest in the event, saying,

“It’s a loose meat hamburger eating contest at my favorite joint in my hometown. Seal Team 6 couldn’t keep me away from this.”

The SEALS could not be found for comment.

But organizers are turning the 10-minute contest into a weekend long city celebration.

“We want to not only make the events about the Canteen Sandwich but about Ottumwa and all the improvements that we’re seeing and the alley and just how beautiful everything is,” Newland said.

If you want to compete with the pro’s, you’d better bring your appetite, event chair Shea Greiner says.

“So Major League Eaters has asked the Canteen to make 90 pounds of meat that the contestants are going to eat in 10 minutes,” Greiner explained.

Greiner also tells me the committee is looking to host a 5k run prior to the event, have live music, and was even contacted by a bike club out of Eldon who wants to have a ride into the city the day of.

After all that, I decided to sacrifice my health to give you an idea of what’s to come.

Watch the video below for my abbreviated attempt at showcasing my skills as a professional eater.

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