Boy, those shoes sure do stink!
Boy, those shoes sure do stink!
And Connor Slocombe, a sixth grade student at Ravenwood Elementary in Eagle River, could not be happier about that.
He just won the nation’s only contest honoring those icky-smelling shoes that most mothers ban to the garage. It took him three years of entering the regional Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Contest at Eagle River’s annual summer-time Bear Paw Festival, but Slocombe would not be stopped in his quest to have his New Balance tennis shoes recognized as the ickiest, smelliest kiddo shoes in the United States.
On Wed., March 28, he won the 42nd National Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Contest amidst much smelly fanfare.
“I did not treat them well,” 12-year-old Slocombe told the ECHO News Wednesday night via a cell phone call from New York City where he and his parents had just finished dinner at Planet Hollywood when explaining just how he got his tennis shoes in to an icky, yet winning, condition for the big win.
Repeated exposure to chicken poop, fish guts and use as a brake on his bike combined to create his strategy.
Good thing he was yet to hit his growth spurt during the time frame from 2014 – the year he first entered the annual contest, but lost to other shoes that were stinkier – until 2016 when the stench emitted from those neon green shoes made representatives from the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce pretty confident the local area had a national winner. His shoes kept fitting his feet and so his parents had little reason to halt their son’s endeavor.
“It was bad,” Dana Thorp Patterson, the chamber’s executive director, said, regarding the aroma of the shoes last summer during the Bear Paw Festival at which Slocombe won the regional competition. “We were pretty sure we had a contender for the national title.”
Slocombe’s mother, Ryanne, thought so as well.
“When he wasn’t wearing them, I didn’t even let him keep them in the garage,” Ryanne told the ECHO News Wednesday night. “He kept them out in the shed in the back yard.”
After Connor’s win in July 2016 at Bear Paw, chamber folks put her son’s shoes in a five-gallon zipper close baggie and in another box to have them shipped overnight to the national competition.
“Even then, we could still smell them,” Patterson said.
But that was okay with everyone involved – especially Connor, who was not bummed when he left his shoes outside overnight once only to find maggots in them the next morning. In his mind, maggots combined with the chicken poop and fish guts already lingering on his shoes only contributed to the coming pungent glory.
When his family moved to Alaska in 2014, he heard about the competition and was ready to enter.
His winning hopes were dashed that year, but he didn’t give up, he said.
His mother decided to tolerate her son’s stinky quest.
“He wore them everywhere,” Ryanne said.
In 2015, Connor’s aromatic shoes were again defeated by another local with even more stink.
“He was disappointed,” Ryanne said, noting that Connor wasn’t going to give up even though his father, Reggie, suggested that perhaps the effort was on its last whiff. “I told Reggie, no, let him continue. Besides, I want to go to New York City,” she said with a laugh. “I just admired his determination.”
Third time was the stinky charm for Connor and his shoes. He won the regional Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker contest at Bear Paw in 2016.
His mom was tickled. And thankful.
As she explained, there are only seven regional competitions and for years, the Bear Paw Festival has convinced the Odor-Eaters representatives to sanction the event in Eagle River. The opportunity for her son and other local children is unusual.
Joy Robinson, the media contact for the competition, told the ECHO News that kids from Alaska are fortunate that the representatives at the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce work so diligently to keep one of the regional competitions in Alaska.
But as Connor views the experience, it isn’t a surprise that stench gets attached to the shoes worn by Alaska kids. After all, just consider all the messy places they go.
Part of the competition includes the entrant explaining to the judges why his or her shoes are so destroyed, Connor said. Here is what he told the judges of the national competition held on Wed., March 28 in New York City at the Times Square location of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Rotten-smelling shoes is what happens to a youngster’s tennis shoes when he wears them non-stop while helping at his aunt’s chicken farm and well, stepping in a lot of poop. Oh, and don’t forget all the fish guts he has stepped in while camping and fishing with his family in Alaska, he told judges with some well-trained noses.
Sneakers were judged on odor, physical condition and the child’s personal description on why their sneakers are simply the stinkiest. The esteemed panel of judges included NASA “Master Sniffer” George Aldrich, a chemical specialist for NASA space missions; Rachel Herz, Ph.D., an expert and author on the psychology of smell; and two reporters with a nose for the news, Huffington Post Reporter Buck Wolf and PIX 11 News Reporter Greg Mocker.
Connor’s explanation combined with what judges described as an overwhelming stench earned his shoes the coveted title of “Smelliest Sole” and secured Connor a lifetime spot in the “Hall of Fumes.” He also received a check for $2,500 and an extra two-night’s stay in New York City to see the play, “Aladdin.”
Another secret for making his tennis shoes the winner for being the worst smelling: Slocombe skips using the brakes on his bike that he claims don’t work very well anyway and uses his feet instead.
Oddly enough, Connor’s feet experienced a major growth spurt toward the end of last summer. His mom said his feet have grown several sizes. Thus, the timing for his win could not have been better. His feet are growing so quickly now, he would not have adequate time in today’s shoes to get them stinky enough.
That’s okay, Connor said as he suggests that perhaps he will help his cousin or one of his sisters get the stench on their shoes for the 2017 Bear Paw Festival.
“This has been a dream come true for me,” Connor said, noting his favorite part of the trip has been taking a boat out to see the Statute of Liberty.
The Odor-Eater’s Rotten Sneaker Contest began in 1974 as a promotion created by a Montpelier, Vermont sporting goods owner looking to advertise a new line of athletic shoes. At the Montpelier Dept. of Recreation, the owner discovered a photogenic pair of very smelly sneakers perfect for the store ad and the rest is history. Odor-Eaters joined the foot fray in 1988 as the official sponsor.
In 2014, the contest moved to Time Square location of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! The winners of local competitions around the country travel to NYC to compete for the national Rotten Sneaker title.
For more information about the Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Contest or Odor-Eaters products, visit www.odor-eaters.com.
Editor’s Note: Connor’s winning shoes are coming home with him for a two-week stink here in Eagle River. We are told there will be a public event. We will get details to you once we know.