The Derry Township Agricultural Fair's annual milk-chugging contest is one of the most popular competitions at the weeklong event, and it is definitely one of the messiest.
Sixty participants were divided into teams of six and cheered on by dozens of spectators as they each chugged a 16-ounce cup of milk. The next team member was not permitted to start chugging until the previous member finished. The winner of Wednesday's event was declared as soon as all six team members emptied their cups.
While some participants had to be coaxed from the crowded stands to enter the contest, others were eager to get started and were busy plotting their strategies to take home a blue ribbon.
The youngest group, children ages 12 and younger, were naturals at dribbling milk out of the sides of their mouths and down their shirts as they attempted to gulp as quickly as possible.
The teen group included guys adept at chugging and who were intently concentrating on the task at hand, while some of the girls were more concerned about keeping their appearance neat and tidy than winning.
The adult field of four teams included a middle-aged group of two men and four women who were determined to be this year's champs.
Pam Turner, of Greensburg, was the team's unofficial captain and cheerleader. As their round of the competition got under way, the team did well initially, with Brian Musick and Leo Moga quickly downing the first two cups of milk. But when it got to Turner, the team's chances quickly went south.
"My throat wouldn't open," Turner said, laughing. "I thought I was drowning."
"Pam choked," Musick said.
Other team members -- Cathy Forney and Sue Misko, of Manor, and Thelma Kline, of Derry -- were also quick to place blame for the team's last-place finish on Turner, who took the criticism well.
"We're putting Pam at the end next year. She's going to be the caboose," Misko said.
"It's not as easy as it looks," Turner said in her own defense.
As the competitors and spectators scattered after the milk-chugging contest, Turner, Forney, Misko and Kline headed for the tent housing the rabbit pens, where they all had children who were exhibiting bunnies. Misko's daughter, Jessica, took home a best-of-show ribbon for her French Lop rabbit.
And while the milk-chugging contest is over for this year, those planning to attend the fair will have no trouble finding something else to keep themselves entertained. Antique, farm and garden tractor competitions will be held the remainder of the week, and almost three dozen men, women, boys and girls will be competing in the horseshoe-throwing contest.
Dennis Richardson, of Murrysville, will do chainsaw carvings through Saturday, and there are inflatable rides and a climbing wall for kids.
Live musical entertainment will be on stage each night, and there are sweet and savory foods for those who plan to arrive hungry.
The fair continues through Saturday night at the fairgrounds, located along Route 982, just north of Derry.