KEY WEST, Fla. -- New Yorkers might stage a hotdog–eating contest each July 4, but competitive eaters in Key West gobbled far sweeter fare during the Mile-High Key Lime Pie Eatin' Contest -- and David Johnson consumed it faster than anyone else.
Wearing a shiny silver costume, the Key West man devoured a whipped-cream-topped 9-inch Key lime pie in just 58.2 seconds, triumphing over 24 rivals in the oceanfront contest that kicked off the annual Key Lime Festival.
Contestants were forbidden to use their hands in the messy competition, but were offered safety goggles to keep whipped cream and yellow pie filling out of their eyes.
Johnson, a former New Yorker, won by planting his bearded face in the pie and coming up only for air.
"During the competition, I wanted to make the biggest mess and make people laugh," he said after his victory, his beard and shaggy wig still encrusted with pie scraps.
Believed to have originated in Key West in the late 1800s, Key lime pie is made primarily of condensed milk, egg yolks and the juice of tiny yellow Key limes — typically with a graham cracker crust and whipped cream or meringue topping. It was designated Florida's official pie in 2006 by the state legislature.
Since the pie-eating contest’s inception in 2013, it has become a July 4 mainstay in Key West.
"I'm from New York and eating contests in New York are a huge tradition for the Fourth of July," Johnson said. "I can’t eat a lot of food, but I can eat really fast -- and I like pie."
The festival continues through Sunday with events including a gravity-defying "Key Lime Pie Drop" and a tasting stroll featuring five versions of the Florida Keys' signature dessert.