Seafood festival

SEE FOOD: Hampton Beach Seafood Festival’s lobster roll eating contest takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Seashell Stage.

Who can make the most lobster rolls disappear the fastest?

Find out at 2 p.m. Saturday, when the winner of the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival lobster roll eating contest takes home a whole mess of clams — money, that is.

The annual event will be at the Main Seashell Stage on the beach, and organizers are gearing up for the annual feast. According to the festival website, eight contestants will vie to be the No. 1 speed eater. The winner will take home $600, while the second-place finisher gets $250 and the third-place winner snags $150.

For the last few years, Tom McGuirk, owner of McGuirk’s Ocean View Hotel & Restaurant, 95 Ocean Blvd., has prepared and donated the edible ammunition for the 10-minute competitive eating contest. Though the job sounds tough, McGuirk takes the task in stride.

“Lobster rolls are pretty easy to make,” he says.

McGuirk says these are not the fancy, overloaded lobster rolls. “These are competition rolls, so they’re the typical hot-dog roll with a couple ounces of meat, not the big rolls that I serve here at McGuirk’s,” he says.

About 2 ounces of lobster salad is scooped into each hot dog roll. McGuirk’s employees make a couple hundred of these dainty delicacies in boxes of four or eight.

“We can make up those rolls a couple of hours ahead of time and be completely prepared for the competition,” he said.

McGuirk will adjust which boxes to put out according to how quickly, or slowly, the contestant can gobble up the food.

“The slower contestants, if they go through the box of eight, I give them a box of four. So that way you have exactly the amount of rolls that you need for the bigger eaters and the smaller eaters,” he said.

McGuirk said one year, two professional eaters joined the fray, upending the usual plans.

“That one was a surprise. They had people there that were eating 20 and 30 rolls,” McGuirk says.

“As long as they tell me, ‘Here it is, you have 10 people,’ and they’re all amateur eaters, then I’m good,” McGuirk adds.

McGuirk figures the winner might eat about 15 lobster rolls, while the average competitor might consume nine or 10.

“They only have 10 minutes. If the winner is eating 15 rolls, you figure five minutes for eight,” he says.

Once the chowing down begins, there’s not much time to do anything but watch who prevails.

The Seafood Festival’s lobster-roll eating contest is unlike other nationally known competitive eating events. For example, contestants in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest every Fourth of July are allowed to eat the hot dog first, if they want, then shove down the bun second — sometimes dunking it in water to speed things along.

But this contest is run “picnic-style,” which means people are not allowed to deconstruct the rolls before eating.

“You can’t take it apart. (Contestants here) have to eat it whole. There was no separating the lobster from the roll,” says McGuirk.

“It is great fun to watch as contestants eat their way through 10, 12, 16 lobster rolls,” says Colleen Westcott, an event coordinator for the festival.

She says the contest has been a big feature at the Seafood Festival.

“Folks gather at the Main Seashell Stage area early to get the best viewing area. The governor of New Hampshire loves to be at the event and will be here this year,” says Westcott.

“It’s fun. It’s a fun competition. It’s all in good fun,” says McGuirk.

Visit seafoodfestivalnh.com for more about the Seafood Festival’s weekend schedule.