Meatballs and family fun at Midlothian fest
BY JAIME ANGIO Correspondent July 22, 2012 9:44PM
St. Christopher Fiesta in Midlothian, Illinois, Sunday, July 22, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 24, 2012 6:08AM
Some used utensils, and some used their fingers. Some came to compete, and some just came to eat.
Seventeen people in total, 13 amateurs and four professional eaters descended upon the 65th annual St. Christopher Fiesta in Midlothian for a meatball eating competition.
The 2-ounce ball of feeding frenzy, put on by Bartolini’s Restaurant (14420 Pulaski Road, Midlothian) is in its seventh year. All proceeds from entrance fees go to local food pantries, while winners walked away with prizes and trophies.
Ken Wisniewski, of Posen, won the 2012 amateur competition. At 35 years old, Wisniewski, a first-time competitor, ate 19.5 meatballs.
“I really did nothing to prepare. I just eat fast all the time, and my girlfriend yells at me because I eat too fast, so I figured, why not,” he said.
Wisniewski walked away with a $500 gift card and, most important, a pretty saucy title.
“I’ll be back next year to defend the title,” he said.
The 2012 meatball eating grand champion came all the way from Granby, Conn. Jamie McDonald, a body builder, ate 45 meatballs and walked out with $2,500.
Meatballs aside, there was plenty of fun for people of all ages at the St. Christopher Fiesta, which started Wednesday.
Shyann Berg, 5, of Manteno came to St. Christopher’s because she loves the occasion.
“I really, really, really like festivals,” she said. I’ve been here two times this week. I love riding rides, and I like to play the games, and I like the funnel cakes,” she said.
Brandon Faro, 7, of Tinley Park, said his favorite part of the fest was Sunday because he could “dunk the mayor.”
“This is so cool. It only took me two tries. I like seeing him go underwater,” Brandon said.
“I do the dunk tank every year,” Midlothian Mayor Terry Stephens said. “And I teach school in this town, too, so they’re out with a vengeance, and it’s good for the church and it’s good for the town.”
Brian Luebke, 34, of Frankfort, came to the fiesta to support his roots.
“I started here in third grade, and I graduated in 1991. I grew up in Midlothian, and this was the staple for every summer, and the 65th anniversary is unbelievable,” he said. “I remember when the fest was two weeks long, and I’m just glad they still do it.”
More than 50,000 people were in attendance over a five-day period. And this year, the organizers were proud they were able to do something extra for fest-goers.
“For the first time, we were able to provide for special-needs children two hours of carnival rides from Wilson Family Shows,” St. Christopher Fiesta co-chair Pat Spreadbury said. “The rides are free, and they let the children and the adults play games for free and as many prizes as they want.”
Co-chair Jamie Potempa said the fiesta is all about the community.
“This church in the community, without this, it’s our brick,” he said. “It brings the whole community back, and everyone that grew up here comes back. It’s a tradition.”
“It brings the whole parish and the town together,” Potempa said.