“Don’t Chew ‘Em”: A Competitive Jalapeño Eater’s Advice to Cinco de Mayo Fiestagoers

Photo: Jalapeño-eating contest participants compete during the 15th annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta. Photo courtesy of festival organizers.

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, an annual celebration of Mexican heritage and culture organized by Shreveport-Bossier’s local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), will return to downtown Shreveport’s Festival Plaza, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday, May 3. My favorite thing about this event is just how unpredictable it is. In addition to live music and traditional Mexican folk dance performances, this year’s event includes Chihuahua racing, a traditional screaming contest called “El Grito,” the Dream Werkz Custom Car Show, a jalapeño-eating competition and more. At one point, at 3:30 p.m., the El Grito competition (during which participants will compete to see who can let out the longest continuous scream) will take place at the same time as a karate demonstration. That should be an interesting time to stroll through Festival Plaza. 

Curious about the challenges faced by competitive jalapeño eaters, I spoke to Mr. William Pearson of Haughton, La. Pearson took part in last year’s jalapeño-eating contest, and he had a few words of advice for anyone considering tossing their sombrero into the ring.

20×49: How’d you get involved in the jalapeño-eating competition?
Pearson: We were at the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, just having a good time, and my sister and wife convinced me to try it.

20×49: How’d you place in the competition?
Pearson: It was a race to see who could eat their peppers in the shortest amount of time. I’d finished three peppers and was reaching for my fourth when the winner finished. It couldn’t have taken the winner more than a minute or a minute and a half.

20×49: How hot were those peppers?
Pearson: They weren’t extremely hot. I grow my own jalapeños, and I’ve eaten a lot of spicy things along the way. These were nothing that a cold beer wouldn’t calm down.

20×49: Any advice for aspiring jalapeño-eating champions?
Pearson: Don’t sit and chew ‘em for a long time. Just bite and swallow. And be ready for something cool afterwards. We were given the option of a beer or water to neutralize the heat. So you get a free beer out of it, and it’s good time.

For a complete schedule of Cinco de Mayo Fiesta event times, click the image below to download or enlarge it.

If you’re a fan of the Fiesta, consider “liking” the event on Facebook.

A schedule of events
A complete scehdule of events for the 17th annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta. Click to enlarge.



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