BERRIEN SPRINGS — Oh, the poor life of a T-shirt in a frozen T-shirt contest.
Soaked in water and then frozen, then beaten, thrown against concrete, jumped on – anything to make it wearable. And when the contest is over, with tears and holes, the shirt may only be useable as a rag for cleaning.
Tuesday afternoon featured the annual Herald-Palladium Frozen T-Shirt Contest at the Berrien County Youth Fair, with the frozen lumps being thrown or beaten against the concrete slab in front of the Al Barbott Memorial Stage.
There was a limit of 20 participants in each age category – 5-9, 10-12, 13-16 and 17 and older. First place prize in each group was $50; second, $30; and third, $20.
Competitors displayed various techniques and strategies. For instance, Ward Cheney, 11, of Niles, who was second in his age group, said he started by hitting the frozen mass, then when part of the shirt broke away, he started pulling that part. Finally, he started to put the shirt on to break open any final frozen spots.
Ward said this was the second year he has entered.
In contrast, the winner of the 10-12 age group was a first-time entrant. She is Kira Wilson, 12, of Byron Center, who was in town visiting a friend.
The winner of the 13-16 category was Paul Pirri, 14, of St. Joseph, who said he just pulled and pulled on the frozen shirt and made sure that his arms didn’t cramp from all that pulling. He also was competing for the first time.
Winner of the 17 and up group was Elijah Metz, 19, of Sodus, who said he won the 13-16 age category a few years ago but hadn’t entered since. However, this year some friends persuaded him to try again.
Second in the oldest grouping was Corey Johnson, 40, of Berrien Springs, whose daughter, Cavan, 7, was second in the 5-9 age group. Johnson, a first-time entrant, said he gave his $30 prize money to his son, Cael, 10, who wasn’t one of the 20 kids in his age group chosen at random to participate.
And third in the oldest category was Kent Zappia, 38, of Paw Paw, who said he grew up in Berrien Springs where his parents, Kay and Frank Zappia, still live. “I went to the fair every year as a kid, but never entered (anything)” he said.
Zappia estimated he now has attended the Berrien Youth Fair close to 30 years. But Tuesday’s Frozen T-Shirt Contest was the first time he ever entered anything.
Zappia’s son, Alex, 8, also competed, but did not place.
Winning times to go from frozen lump to putting on the shirt ranged from about 9 minutes in the youngest age group to about 3-4 minutes in the older groups.
Following are the top three finishers in each age group:
• Ages 5-9: 1) Mika Necas, 8, Three Oaks; 2) Cavan Johnson, 7, Berrien Springs; 3) Liam Summers, 9, Buchanan.
• Ages 10-12: 1) Kira Wilson, 12, Byron Center; 2) Ward Cheney, 11, Niles; 3) unavailable (left too quickly).
• Ages 13-16: 1) Paul Pirri, 14, St. Joseph; 2) Jraven Jacoby, 14, Baroda; 3) Care Farrar, 16, Benton Harbor.
• 17 and older: 1) Elijah Metz, 19, Sodus; 2) Corey Johnson, 40, Berrien Springs; 3) Kent Zappia, 38, Paw Paw.