It's Fat Tuesday and celebrations are ramping up on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. But you don't have to fly south to feel the spirit of Mardis Gras.
Forget beignets. Here in Connecticut, paczkis are all the hype. They look like donuts, but they're really traditional, deep-fried Polish pastries. This morning, Eddy's Bake Shop in Ansonia made hundreds of them for the annual Fat Tuesday paczki-eating competition.
"We do this every year in honor of our daughter, Sydney," said Marcus Bartone.
Sydney died seven years ago after losing a tough battle with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer. It's her legacy that brings Marcus here every year as part of the Team Sydney Fund.
Bartone said he takes the competition somewhat seriously.
"The proceeding couple of weekends I come down and I pick up a few extra paczkis, but you can't train for something like this," he expalined.
But ultimately, it's not about winning. Bartone and his team compete to help other children by spreading the word about Sydney's rare disease.
Contestants are allotted five minutes to eat as many of the 4-ounce Polish paczkis as they can. The owner said they changed the rules, though, after some expert eaters tried to take home the glory.
"We got rid of our professional eaters now," said owner Paul Ciocca. "Most of the people are customers day-to-day."
The competition was tough and messy. Michael Peterson won second place and maintained a sense of humor despite the sugar high.
"Right now, I'm feeling kind of glazed and confused," he said. "I didn't pull any paczkis. I did the best that I could. And I'm just gonna have to bite down harder next year."
Marcus Batone took the gooey glory, winning first place after eating nine paczkis, just a few away from the record of 13 and a half. He went home with quite the prize.
"We won it! We're going to Disney World, baby!" Bartone exclaimed.