Participants scarf down burgers during a contest at Beach Burger...

Participants scarf down burgers during a contest at Beach Burger in Mastic Beach. (Oct. 12, 2013) Credit: Ted Phillips

As five contestants stared at plates piled with a dozen burgers each in Mastic Beach on Saturday, Amanda Squicciarini yelled out the most important rule of speed eating: keep it down.

The burgers were unadorned, but among the scores of spectators were ghouls and superheroes enjoying Mastic Beach's "Fright Fest," which blocked off Neighborhood Road for Halloween-themed music and shopping.

Just before the competition started, Jojo Marafino, a 25-year-old auto mechanic from Merrick, said he was ready to win. "I feel very confident in my performance that's about to happen," he said. "I'm a normal fat kid."

Squicciarini, whose father, Tom, owns Beach Burger, where the contest was held, placed another stack of reserve burgers on the table.

Contestants paid $20 to fight for a championship belt and a $100 gift card for the person who could eat the most burgers in 10 minutes.

Jonathan Barry, a 23-year-old cook at the burger joint revved up the crowd. "Is everybody ready to see some burgers eaten!"

The crowd roared its assent, and the binge on 3-ounce burgers began.

Some tried to pace themselves, while others ate with ferocious abandon. At the five-minute mark, Squicciarini added four more burgers to everyone's plate. Kids chanted "Eat! Eat! Eat!" And someone yelled out sage advice, "Remember, you can drink water!"

As the feeding frenzy entered the home stretch, Marafino was neck and neck with Jesse Bichsel, 20, a mechanic from Mastic.

With just seconds left, Marafino stuffed the last bite of his 11th -- and winning -- burger into his mouth.

Bichsel was a close second with 10 burgers consumed.

A little sluggish, Marafino said afterward that his strategy had been to eat as fast as he could. "I just knew I had to jump out quick," he said. "I knew they wouldn't catch up."

Third place finisher Larry Rosenhaus, 29, a customer service specialist from Mastic Beach, said he employed a similar strategy to down seven burgers. "Before you get the meat sweats, you want to get everything down," he said. "It worked for a while, but you kind of hit a wall of meat."

Tom Squicciarini, 46, said the contest -- the first they've held -- was inspired by the Nathan's hot dog eating contest; they plan to bring it back next year.

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