Saturday, Oct. 15, is a day to skip breakfast so your belly has room for as many beignets as you can eat in four minutes. Downtown Sarasota coffee and ice cream shop Rise & Nye's—which employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities—is hosting a Big Beignet Eating Championship beginning at 11 a.m. to raise money for its nonprofit, Inclusion Revolution. For a $20 entry fee, participants will go head-to-head for big prizes, and most importantly, bragging rights.
After the success of its Great Ice Cream Eating Championship in May, owners Beaver Shriver and Christian Nye set out to showcase another of Rise & Nye's specialty items: beignets topped with a snowdrift of powdered sugar.
The contest will be divided into two age groups, kids 12 and under and people 13 and up, including adults. The winner of the youth division will get to create and name a signature ice cream flavor, while the 13-and-up winner will receive dinner for two at neighboring barbecue restaurant Brick's Smoked Meats.
"We have 35 people who work here now, most have never had a job. They finally have a place to show their abilities. This is their place," says Shriver. The team members' pride in their work is evident as soon as you step into the building—from their smiling faces to their eagerness to serve up the shop's delicious beignets, coffee and ice cream sandwiches.
Shriver is aiming for the community to see how successful his employees are in the shop and use that as an opportunity for them to be hired elsewhere. "My hope is that it becomes a hiring chain and hopefully eliminates the fear of difference," he says. "These guys are ready to work."
There's still plenty of room for participants in this weekend's contest; interested parties are encouraged to register in advance.
The Rise and Nye's Big Beignet Eating Championship will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 1534 State Street, Sarasota. For more information visit their website.