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Hot dogs in the Big Apple? Nah! Try gobbling a Key lime pie faster than Hector Rodriguez in Key West

A freshly decorated Key Lime pie. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Carol Tedesco
Florida Keys News Bureau
A Key lime pie eating contest in Key West Thursday was won by a 19-year-old Honduran student, Hector Rodriguez, above holding the contest championship belt.

KEY WEST, Fla. -- New York might have its July 4 hotdog-eating contest, but competitors in Key West gobbled much sweeter fare during the World Famous Key Lime Pie Eating Championship — and Hector Rodriguez consumed it faster than anyone else.

The 19-year-old student from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, devoured a whipped-cream-topped 9-inch Key lime pie in just one minute and 58.52 seconds, besting 24 rivals in the oceanfront contest that highlighted the annual Key Lime Festival.

Contestants weren’t allowed to use forks, spoons, or even their hands — resulting in inventive and very messy methods of consuming the Florida Keys’ signature dessert.

Rodriguez said his strategy was to plunge his face deep into the pie plate and inhale as much pie as he could.

“It got dirty, it got messy — but if you’re not gonna get your face dirty with pie, you’re not doing it right,” he said after the victory, his face and protective goggles still coated with whipped cream and crumbs of crust.

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 a whipped cream or meringue topping.

It’s so popular that, nearly 20 years ago, it was designated Florida's official pie by the state legislature — and the pie-eating contest has become a July 4 mainstay in the Florida Keys.

“I know the saying is, ‘As American as apple pie,’ but here in Key West they say, ‘As American as Key lime pie’ — and I think that’s the way it should be,” Rodriguez said.

Other Key Lime Festival events include the gravity-defying Key Lime Pie Drop and tasting strolls for fans of Key lime cocktails and pie. The citrus celebration continues through Sunday, July 7.