EAU CLAIRE — It was the year of the Bartzes at Saturday’s 46th annual International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship at Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm.
Edwardsburg High School football coach Kevin Bartz won the championship, while his daughter, Chloe, won the women’s division.
In winning the championship division, Bartz unseated longtime champion Rick “Pellet Gun” Krause.
Krause has won the pit spit championship a total of 19 times, including the last three years. Krause came in third in this year’s championship with a spit of 46 feet 5 1/2 inches.
The Bartzes may not have quite the dynasty as the Krauses, who have dominated the championship over the years, but the Bartzes do have a history with the pit spit going back to 1977, when patriarch Dick Bartz won the championship.
Kevin Bartz last competed in the pit spit in 2015, when he came out the winner. Saturday, his winning spit was 58 feet 3 1/4 inches.
Bartz’s first win at Tree-Mendus came years ago when he was just 7 years old.
“We started coming again when my kids were young, it’s a good family time,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about coming this year until my brother, Danny, contacted me a week ago and told me ESPN was going to be here.”
He said he didn’t do too much training for this year’s event, noting that “too much overthinking” can backfire. As the next to the last competitor, he said he was nervous until Krause’s last spit.
“I can’t remember how many times Rick does it on the third and last spit,” he said.
Bartz also took time to remember Tree-Mendus owner and pit spit founder Herb Teichman, who died in January.
“Herb was always very positive,” he said. “He loved his pit spitting.”
Chloe Bartz is a 2019 graduate of Edwardsburg High School and will attend Hope College this fall.
“It’s a lot of fun. The secret is to curl your tongue,” she said after winning the women’s division. “I’ll definitely come back. We spend the day here and I can’t pass up a waffle boat, that’s my favorite thing here.”
She noted that the family has been away from the area the last few summers, vacationing in Hawaii, California and Traverse City, but plan to come back to Eau Claire every year they can. Chloe has never lost any year she’s competed, winning a number of times in the youth divisions.
Kevin Hester of St. Joseph made his best finish in a decade, coming in second with a spit of 54 feet 9 1/4 inches. His wife, Mary, came in second in the women’s division with a spit of 36 feet 5 1/2 inches.
Last year’s women’s division winner, Marlene “Machine Gun” Krause didn’t compete this year, staying back in Arizona with a new grandchild.
Hester, an area pastor and sheriff’s deputy, said he and his family come every year just to have a good time. This year, six family members competed in the afternoon championship rounds.
“I love seeing the kids compete. To have any of us finish well is a bonus,” he said.
Eau Claire Village President John Glassman won the dignitary division with a spit of 36 feet 11 inches, beating out Sheriff Paul Bailey and County Commissioner Jon Hinkelman, among others. It was Glassman’s first time competing.
As noted above, this year’s championship received its share of national media exposure, including having a film crew from ESPN on hand and representatives of Voice of America and a national farm publication.
Frank Mazzella of Go Live Sportscast from Detroit had a film crew to record the event for ESPN3. Mazzella said their broadcast will air later this month and again in August and also be available online.
Members of the Teichman family paid tribute to Herb Teichman at the start of the afternoon competition Saturday. His daughter, Lynn Teichman Sage, thanked everyone for their outpouring of love and support after her father’s death on Jan. 14. She also noted the passing of Herb’s sister, Emily Teichman Foster, earlier last week.
“We’re in mourning this year but we’re rejoicing,” she said. “Dad always said that cherry pit spitting was a nutritious sport. As he noted, what else can you do with a pit but spit it?”