MANSON - The correct answer for anyone looking for the actual crater at the annual Manson Greater Crater Days is simple.
They're standing on it.
Or more correctly, standing on the billions of tons of dirt, rock, sand and other material that filled it in during the last ice age.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Carson Widlund, 8, of Manson, works on putting a whole pie away Saturday afternoon during the Manson Lions Club Pie Eating Contest at Manson Greater Crater Days. At left, Reyd Wood, 11, also of Manson, takes a short break to regroup.
To see a real crater, albeit a small one, just look in front of Merlin Platt, of Manson.
He created one in an apple pie with his first bite during the Manson Lions Pie Eating Contest - plunging right in, face first.
"You just go fast and swallow," he said.
There was one side effect to his contest technique.
"I got apple up my nose," he said.
Platt said he likes to eat. His next stop was the nearby pizza-eating contest.
His main competitor got left in the bakery.
Wade Tucker, of Manson, said it was his first pie-eating contest.
"Peer pressure," he said.
Tucker didn't make a crater in his. He opted for a different technique. He began with an edge and attempted to eat the pie like a large cookie.
It didn't work. Perhaps for different reasons.
"If I'd known I was going to do this, I wouldn't have had a brat earlier," he said. "I'm pretty much full."
Nearby, Wayne and Christy King, of Manson, were part of food contest as well. This one, the Rib Fest, was more about slow and low than fast and hot.
They spent most of the afternoon tending a giant cooker dubbed The Thing. King said it might have been part of a walk-in cooler. but he's not sure.
It was given to him already converted to slow roast.
It works, and it works well.
"I have yet to have a bad one," he said. "Even the time the smoker caught on fire with a turkey inside it."
While unusual, the accidental blaze made for a memorable holiday.
"It was the best turkey ever," he said. "It was a burn-grilled, oven-baked turkey."
The couple splits the cooking chores. She makes the rub. He loads the wood.
Like any good cook, she has her secrets.
"I tell my kids the secret ingredient is extra spit," she said.
Stacy Stangl, of Carroll, was planning on attending several events. She started out the day by watching the parade and helping her daughter Brooke, 3, gather up candy from the passing floats.
"I love the candy from the parade," she said.
Later in the day, the Manson Fire Department water fights and the Manson Northwest 20 year class reunion were on her agenda.
She was planning on avoiding one set of events - the food contests.
"My husband Nate would win them," she said.
The day also included a host of activities on the fairgrounds.
Carson Widlund, 8, kept several other children wet at the water balloon toss. They, of course, returned the favor.
He wasn't sure where the dampness stood when he ran out of water balloons.
"I didn't keep track," he said.
Another option for the day, a giant game of Jenga made from 2-by-4 lumber.
Israel Chalstrom, 8, of Manson, pulled out the last one and toppled the structure.
He said the collapse came as a surprise. Did it make him nervous?
"No," he said.
Reyd Wood, 11, of Manson, had enjoyed a number of the games then entered the pie-eating contest.
There was one small problem.
"I don't like apples," he said.
He also tried the technique of eating the pie like a giant cookie from the edges in. It didn't work.
"It's not the best idea," he said. "At least I tried."