NORTH ANDOVER — North Andover's Independence Day celebration offered something for just about everybody.
For the hardy folks who are determined to get or stay in shape, the annual Fourth of July Road Race beckoned. Runners surged through the outlying streets of the town for five kilometers – 3.1 miles – before returning to the Old Center Common, where all of the other Fourth of July activities occurred.
For those who enjoy food, a category that includes most humans, vendors did a brisk business selling pizza, ice cream and other edible stuff.
For those who like fun with their food, the annual pie-eating contest hit the spot.
Music lovers could not have been disappointed by this year's Fourth of July celebration. The Abraxas Santana Tribute Band, based in North Andover, entertained the crowd with "Black Magic Woman," "Oye Como Va" and other Carlos Santana hits.
Band members include Jacques Raymond, bass guitar; Steve Coffil, keyboard; Lou LaCava, drums; Fernando Perez, percussion; Yuri Dytch, timbali percussion; and Ed Antonelli, lead guitar and band leader.
Also performing was North Andover's own Caleb Cascio, a pop singer and guitarist who at 13 already plays at parties and fundraisers. His renditions of "Sweet Caroline" and "Proud to be an American" earned vigorous applause from the crowd.
Among those clapping were his proud parents, John and Jessica Cascio. Caleb will soon enter eighth grade at St. Michael School.
Three very competitive people were the victors in the three ages groups of the pie-eating contest. Contestants, seated at a table on the stage, were not allowed to use their hands as they devoured blueberry pies.
They were permitted to use their hands when they drank water. They wore ponchos during this hugely messy affair. They all had blueberry pie filling on their faces when it was over.
Elizabeth Guinee, 10, won the 7-to-10-year-old division. Asked what enabled her to eat her pie faster than her three competitors, she said, "I didn't eat breakfast." Three of Elizabeth's older sisters competed in the older age groups.
Jack Lochrie, 12, was the fastest pie eater among the 11-to-16-year-olds. Jack is no stranger to winning pie-eating contests.
He was the champion among the 7-to-10-year-olds in 2017. What was the key to his success?
"It's a secret," he said with a smile. Asked if he likes blueberry pie, he said, "Not after this."
Jack will soon be a seventh-grader at North Andover Middle School.
The champion of the afternoon's gastronomical games was Nanyu Barbosa, 35, of Lawrence. While the youngest competitors ate small pies and the teens consumed halves of larger pies, the participants 17 and older faced a greater challenge.
Each had to munch down a full-size blueberry pie. Facing off against six other equally determined eaters, Barbosa got right down to business, practically put his face in the pie and began chewing.
For an intense seconds, it appeared the contest among the older pie eaters was going to be a photo finish. Caroline Guinee, 21, fiercely attacked her pie. Her face was on the table as she pursued the last few morsels.
Barbosa, however, finished off his pie just a few seconds before Guinee. Asked if he had a secret to his success or a special technique, he said "raw determination" gave him the victory.
Barbosa, his wife Stephanie and their son Phoenix, 2, came to North Andover's celebration so Phoenix could participate in the bike parade. They just happened to find out about the pie-eating contest and Barbosa figured he'd give it a try.
His favorite pies, he said, are apple and rhubarb.
Asked if Barbosa, an accountant, is a large-scale eater, his wife said, "He eats well. I'm a pretty good cook."
Caroline Guinee will soon begin her senior year at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California. She is working toward a liberal arts degree and intends to pursue a career in teaching.
"I prefer cake to pie," she said.
The third-place finisher among the oldest pie eaters was Clare Tuttle, 20.
Dylan Prine, 13, of Georgetown, was the runner-up among the 11-to-16-year-olds Dumping the pie out of the tin made for faster eating, he said. Catherine Guinee, 14, was the third-place finisher.
Her sister Maureen, 13, also competed in that group.
Each winner received $25 in cash.
After the contest, an older gentleman asked if her could buy a blueberry pie. Jeffrey Coco, co-chairman of the Festival Committee, which organizes the Fourth of July celebration and other events, gave the man a pie.
"Compliments of the Festival Committee," Coco said.