Yep, it's time to pack it in

Competitors in an ice cream-eating contest did it for a good cause.

Published July 15, 2007

TAMPA - A new tradition could well have been born Saturday at an old Tampa landmark. That's when scores turned out to vie for the championship of the first-ever Old Meeting House ice cream-eating contest.

"We've been wanting to do this for a long time," said Matthew Hoffman, who bought the Old Meeting House restaurant from original owner Jim Strickland 11 years ago. "We've finally got our act together."

The Old Meeting House at 4004 S Mac Dill Ave. is not the same as the original on Howard Avenue, which Hoffman closed three years ago when sales began to falter. But ice cream drew a crowd of about 100 Saturday to the new place.

Sixty-four flavors of it, that is, produced and sold mostly to wholesale customers. On Saturday, pints of vanilla bean sat stacked on tables under a tent.

First up: the "little kids," ages 7-14, followed by the "big kids," ages 15 and older.

"Behind you you'll find a bucket for reversing," Hoffman said as youngsters sat, spoons in hand. "But of course that means automatic disqualification."

And then the race was on. Vanilla ice cream trickled down arms and smeared across faces. Five minutes and 46 seconds later, Allen Hummel, 14, had gorged his way to victory.

His prize? A year's worth of Old Meeting House ice cream.

"The mocha's going to be my first," said Allen, who hadn't lost his sweet tooth.

Second place went to Jordan Jewel, 11, who came away victorious, if a bit green.

"My stomach hurts," she said. "I'm going to burp."

But it was all for a good cause.

Proceeds went to Everyday Blessings, a children's home in southeast Hillsborough which currently houses 36 children.

"This kind of event is so wonderful because it gets people out and they can hear about us and about the difficulties of foster care," said Sister Jackie Kingsbury, development director for Everyday Blessings.

Jackie Ripley can be reached at ripley@sptimes.com or at 813 269-5308.