Mark Russell was deliberate in choosing the foods he ate at Rise Up Cafe the morning of Nov. 4.
Russell had one-third of a Mary's Cinnamon Bun (named for his daughter Mary Russell, who works at the shop) and one-third of a garlic everything bagel, both of them warm and just large enough to get his stamina up.
"That freeze is real," he said.
Other participants in the Great Ice Cream Eating Championship at Rise Up Cafe, a coffee and ice cream shop staffed by people with intellectual disabilities, echoed his sentiments.
“I know it's cliche, but you’ve got to be quick,” said Aaron McWhorter, a two-time winner. “You have to keep going forward and keep trying to get it down ... It’s ice-cold. If you have sensitive teeth, you’ll freeze up for sure."
McWhorter said the experience is about more than the challenge of the competition. It's also a chance to support the opportunities and work culture the shop offers to those who may not be able to find them elsewhere.
Beaver Shriver, co-founder of the nonprofit-run shop, said ice cream and beignet-eating contests are a means of showcasing the shop's culture and supporting its operations.
The shop faces numerous expenses, he said, some of which are occupational therapists and the cost of the space. Shriver said the shop offers the public a chance to meet people with intellectual disabilities.
"They want to get married, they want to earn their own paycheck, they want to go to Target and buy their own stuff," Shriver said. "They want to do all the same things that everybody else wants to do."
The winner of the adult category in the competition received a $100 gift certificate and a goodie bag from Brick’s Smoked Meats, while the winner of the youth category received the chance to create and name an ice cream, and serve as a "Celebrity Scooper" for its debut, with additional prizes for runners-up.