ANSONIA, Conn. (WTNH) – A Mardi Gras tradition in Ansonia that once had an uncertain future is gaining in popularity. The paczki eating contest had its largest field of contestants ever.

Eleven brave competitors had five minutes to swallow as many of the giant jelly donuts as they can. Paczkis are a polish and Slavic Fat Tuesday tradition. It’s a way to use up all the sugar and fat in the house before Lent.

“Before Lent, we eat and eat and eat and eat, and then we give it up for God,” said contestant Sharon Voroschak.

The contest is an Ansonia tradition that started in the late 1990s. For years, Eddy’s Bake Shop hosted it and supplied the baked goods.

“Unfortunately, Eddy’s has closed, but I wanted to keep that tradition going here in Ansonia,” explained Mayor David Cassetti (R – Ansonia). “It’s a wonderful tradition and it’s a feel-good event.”

So, the City now hosts it at the armory, with Paczkis from Big Y. Voroschak is the first-ever female contestant. She managed to eat five and is now full of dough…and sugar.

“I feel like going down to the Riverwalk and running, like 5 miles,” Voroschak said.

She did not come close to the amount put away by the winner, “Gentleman” Joe Menchetti. He ate ten. Believe it or not, he once ate 14 of these belly bombs. He is an experienced eater, and he definitely knows his way around a paczki.

“I won nine years in a row at Eddy’s before they got tired of me winning, so this is my tenth paczki eating contest in Ansonia,” Menchetti said.

Ansonia’s Mayor hopes that once everybody sees how much fun these folks had this year, they’ll have even more contestants next year.