2007 'Austin Chronicle' Chipmunking Contest

Of all the Hostess snacks – Twinkies, CupCakes, Chocodiles, Ding Dongs, HoHos, SuzieQ's, Donettes, Mini Muffins, Fruit Pies, Pudding Pies, and Leopards – arguably the most unappealing, not to say vile, of these processed cakes are the Sno Balls. Packaged in pairs, the chocolate sponge cakes are covered with pasty, marshmallow frosting and then rolled in coconut flakes. Usually white, they also come in pink, green, and other colors, depending on the holiday. In March they tend to be green, for obvious reasons. Mmmm … doesn't that make you want to just cram one of those puffy cakes in your mouth? Or four … or seven?

For about six years, The Austin Chronicle has hosted annual Sno Ball Chipmunking contests, usually one or two weeks following South by Southwest. During the annual Music, Film, and Interactive festivals, the Chronicle mans a table at the Austin Convention Center and hands out free HoHos and Sno Balls, along with Chronicles and such. Decidedly less popular than the HoHos, Sno Balls generally are left in hefty surplus when the Festival is over. Therefore, two weeks later, the Chronicle and South by Southwest staffs come together to be tickled and affronted by those crass enough to participate in Sno Ball carnage.

For people who don't work for companies that endorse this type of behavior, I should clarify. These annual Chipmunking contests are not eating contests; they are stuffing contests. The objective is to fill your mouth with as many Sno Balls as you can in five minutes. This may be achieved by ripping apart the Sno Balls before entry, but every bit must enter the mouth and not be swallowed or spit out.

In recent years, complaints have arisen concerning cheating, though, really, a formal set of rules has never been officially established. The bottom line is to keep the Sno Balls in the mouth. In past years, a rule mandated that the lips must be completely sealed; yet, this year, this particular rule was no longer in play.

In the late, rainy afternoon of Thursday, March 29, South by Southwest wheeled a barrel full of beer over to the Chronicle parking lot. Competing in the cream-and-coconut-stuffing contest were the Chronicle's Mike Bartnett, Bobby Leath, Alan Metoskie, Dan Hardick, James Renovitch, and David Woolsey. Representing SXSW were Tami and Tierney Stout (no relation).

Last year's returning co-champ (along with Tami) Renovitch, overzealously opened up his Sno Ball package before getting the go-ahead and was thus slapped with a 10-second penalty. And then came the stuffing. Woolsey methodically packed his coconut-crusted cake, eyes wide as he filled his mouth. Bartnett took to slapping his Sno Balls on the wet ground, thinking he could somehow reduce their volume. All business at first, the once ebullient Hardick was the first casualty. While stuffing his sixth Sno Ball into his pie hole, his body just gave up, forcing out a thick, slimy greenish-brown goo through Hardick's fingers. Bartnett went down after five, and Leath also threw in the towel, his mouth dripping saliva and cake, after five. Meanwhile, Metoskie, Renovitch, Woolsey, and the two SXSW Stouts were very much in the game, each completing their sixth stuffing as the five-minute mark approached. In an effort to amuse – or perhaps impress – newest Chronicle employee Metoskie smashed a seventh Sno Ball onto his creamy, hairy face, but nothing else was finding its way into his mouth at this point. Nothing. In the end, these five were all declared winners, each able to stuff six Sno Balls into their mouths.

For winning the contest, each employee was given the priceless gift of glory. Leftover Sno Balls were offered as well, but there were no takers. In private, Renovitch, who loathes coconut, told me, "I don't even taste the Sno Balls. I just shove them in my cheek sacks; I don't put them on my tongue."

See ya next year, chipmunkers.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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