The Arizona Taco Festival Hot Chili Pepper Eating Contest

​The contest works like this: Each round lasts three minutes. I need to completely chew and swallow each chili --skin, seeds; everything except the cap. I'll be disqualified if I choose to give up at any time, drink the beer standing on the table in front of me, or puke. If there isn't a clear winner after the final round, they'll call it a tie and all the remaining contestants receive the full prize:

  • $150 in cash money
  • 2 gallons of Blue Bell ice cream
  • A hot sauce basket from Desert Smoke BBQ
  • An ambulance, if needed.

The emcee tells us that the peppers we grab will correspond to the order in which we're standing -- no matter how much bigger or smaller that particular pepper is. Since I'm first in line, I'll have to grab the first of each pepper variety, which after a quick glance, poses a problem in round three. But we'll get to that in a minute. As the crowd gathers, emcee Megan Finnerty of the Arizona Republic instructs us to grab the first pepper and counts down. "3...2...1...go!" The torment begins.

Get the gory details after the jump.

Round 8: the Day After
I may have won the initial battle, but the ghost pepper always wins in the end. My mid-contest sneakiness may have been beneficial short-term, but I paid for it in the long run. No less than four fiery trips to the bathroom and hours of the worst stomach cramps I think I've ever had. I sat for hours in front of my TV, holding my stomach and chugging milk through tears.

Was it worth it in the end? Now, several days later and $150 richer, I'd say yes. But if you had asked on Sunday to give back my prize money in exchange for pain relief, I'd have taken that in a heartbeat.

No more ghost chilies. EVER. 

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Zach Fowle
Contact: Zach Fowle