- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

RUTHER GLEN, Va. (AP) - When it comes to eating watermelon, it’s hard to top the Carneal family in Caroline County.

The family dominated the leaderboards of the Caroline County Agricultural Fair’s watermelon-eating competition on July 9, beating out contestants from Henrico to Stafford counties with their ability to quickly chomp down the fruit.

The five Carneal siblings, ranging in age from 2 to 13 years old, swept the friendly competition at the fairgrounds in Ruther Glen.

The Carneals secured their various victories in multiple heats by quickly mashing their faces into large slices of the fruit. But it was the two eldest who really put their noses to the rinds.

Courtney Carneal, 11, finished first in the 7- to 11-year-old bracket, scraping her teeth across the rind until she could chomp no more. The eldest Carneal, 13-year-old Stephen, conquered the bracket in the 12 to 17 age group.

Unsurprisingly, Stephen said he and Courtney had the same strategy for winning: Scraping their teeth up and down the rind for maximum coverage.

The Carneals are not new to competitive fruit eating. Wilson Jones, who has been the competition’s announcer for several years, said they have consistently competed and placed year after year.

“It’s really fun to see how the kids have grown year after year,” he said.

And, despite cries from the audience when a contestant didn’t appear to have fully consumed his or her watermelon, Jones said the contest was primarily about ensuring fun and avoiding the consequences of gorging.

“When it’s a fun competition, we don’t ding kids for stuff like that,” he said. “We’ve had a few kids run for the trash can before.”

Courtney said she and her siblings have entered the competition nearly every year since becoming eligible at age 2 “just for the fun of eating watermelon.”

Their mother, Melissa Carneal, said love of the sweet produce doesn’t stop at the competition, either.

“They all love watermelon. We grow it in our garden at home,” she said.

She said the competition has become so ingrained in their annual schedule that the family always makes its annual trek to fair on watermelon-eating day. In fact, she said the competition had become so important that a trip last year to Disney World_that “happiest place on Earth”_was soured because it caused the family to miss the competition.

“They’re just summer fruit kids,” she said.

___

Information from: The Free Lance-Star, https://www.fredericksburg.com/

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