The Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Contest
A unique competition you have to win by a nose.
Written by LifeFiled under
“You will definitely be offended from an olfactory perspective,” warns judge Rachel Herz, referring to anyone willing to chance attending the 35th annual Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Contest, held March 23, 2010, at the Capitol Pavilion in Montpelier, Vermont. But those who do voluntarily subject themselves to the assemblage of foul-smelling sneakers are advised to stay for the duration of the contest, as opposed to stepping out for a breath of fresh air and then re-entering the room. “After 10 or 15 minutes in the auditorium you stop smelling the ambient aroma—a process called adaptation,” begins Herz. “Last year my husband went out to get a cup of coffee, and when he came back in he almost choked,” she reports.
For those of you who haven’t yet caught a whiff of this offbeat competition, each March—on or around the first day of spring—a select group of boys and girls ranging in age from 6-16 descend on Montpelier, hoping to have their sneakers deemed the smelliest in the country. Not just anyone can join this elite group; each of the contenders had to win a regional qualifier, thereby earning $200 cash and an all-expense-paid trip to Vermont to compete in the finals.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Rotten Sneaker Contest was conceived as a marketing gimmick, dreamed up by a Montpelier sporting goods store owner looking for a way to promote a new line of athletic shoes. In 1988, Combe Incorporated (the maker of Odor-Eaters products), stepped in and became title sponsor, raising the contest’s profile and lending it an air of legitimacy. Naturally, Combe saw it as a unique vehicle for promoting Odor-Eaters insoles, powders, sprays and socks, all of which are designed to combat the embarrassing problem of foot odor.
Here’s how the contest works: On the morning of the competition, each entrant will wear his or her sneakers to the event, a requirement designed to minimize the chance that any sneakers will be doctored just prior to the judging. Then, one at a time, each of the contestants will be prompted to remove their sneakers and invited to explain to the judges why they smell so bad.