Chris Hemberger was triumphant in victory, pumping his first and saying he will three-peat next year.
For the second consecutive year, the 24-year-old Hastings man won the adult division of the Kwickest Kool-Aid Drinking Contest Saturday afternoon during Kool-Aid Days. Hemberger downed 32 ounces of Kool-Aid in 4.47 seconds in the final round.
Contest organizer Stacy Kerr and her husband Neil Kerr were equally impressed with Hemberger.
“He just opens up and drinks that Kool-Aid so fast I don't think anyone's going to beat him next year,” she said. “I'd like to see someone try.”
“He doesn't even swallow,” Neil added.
There were 68 total competitors: 21 in the adult division, 9 in the 12-16 division, 29 in the 7-11 division and 9 in the under 7 division.
“We’d always like to have more, so we encourage people to come out again next year and think about it,” Stacy Kerr said. “It’s a free event, which is really nice. Everybody can finish up the parade, come on over, get a free glass of Kool-Aid and vie for some great prizes.”
Six competitors qualified in each division, but not everyone was present, for the final round .
Stacy liked the big crowd present to watch the final round.
“Everybody was pretty excited about it,” she said. “They brought all their people to cheer them on and it was a lot of fun.”
Adult competitors drink 32 ounces of Kool-Aid, teenage competitors drink 20 ounces, 7-11-year-old competitors drink 12 ounces and competitors 6 and younger drink 8 ounces.
Dominating a Kool-Aid drinking contest is a good match for Hemberger, who grew up in Hastings frequently drinking the beverage.
“When I was a kid I was told, you’ve got to drink fast, you’ve got to drink fast,” he said. “I took that to heart and I’ve been drinking fast ever since. I never slowed down.”
His 14-year-old niece, Aspyn Hoppe of Pullman, Wash., finished second in the 12-to-16-year-old division. This was her second year competing in the drinking contest, where she finished third last year.
Hoppe, who visits Hastings in the summer and during holidays, describes herself as someone obsessed with Kool-Aid.
While she had a better finish in the drinking contest this year, Hoppe realizes she has a long way to go before she could compete with her uncle.
“It’s an expert level I have not achieved yet,” she said. “I think mostly I just like Kool-Aid, so it’s easy to drink fast.”
Six-year-old Jayden Alamea-Jenkins of Lincoln won the under 7 division in his first visit to Kool-Aid Days.
“It was pretty fun,” he said. “I knew I was going to win.”
Jayden’s mother Sarah Alamea-Jenkins said she’s not surprised he won. Jayden did well in the preliminaries and he was excited for the final round.
They have family who live in Hastings, so they decided to attend the festival this year.
Sarah said Jayden plans to defend his title next year.
“I think so. What do you think of that bud? Do you want to come back next year?” she said to an emphatic nod from her son.
1. Chris Hemberger of Hastings
2. Jerry Stuhr of Grand Island
3. Brian Hoffman of Hastings
Other finalists: Ben Walkinshaw and Nathan Martin
1. Ira Lampert of Orchard
2. Aspyn Hoppe of Pullman, Wash.
3. Seth Lampert of Orchard
Other finalists: Andrew Pavel, Tyson LeBar, Brooklyn Stevens
1. Jordy Baland of Grand Island
2. Hunter Treffer of Juniata
3. Jose Gomez of Hastings
Other finalists: McCoy Haussler, Charlie Bryant
6 and younger
1. Jayden Alamea-Jenkins of Lincoln
2. Candelario Gomez of Hastings
3. Morgan Rademacher of Loup City
Other finalists: Madlyn Karr, Ryan Martinez, Dallin Borders