PORT RICHEY — “Barf! Barf! Barf!”
The cheers, if you could call them that, echoed around the teen room at the Regency Park Branch Library last week as audience members looked on with both fascination and disgust as their friends took part in the library’s first “Teen Fear Factor.”
The event, modeled after the television show “Fear Factor,” which often has contestants eating live spiders and cockroaches, was tamed a bit for the library contests. They just had to make it through several rounds of foods often considered gross by western standards. Not finishing the food, throwing up or needing to drink milk were all grounds for dismissal from the contest.
The teens started with easy challenges, like a medley of coleslaw, chocolate syrup and Spam, then moved on to having to chew an entire clove of garlic. Other challenges included prune-flavored baby food eaten out of a diaper and Limburger cheese, notorious for its smell caused by the same bacteria partially responsible for human foot odor.
By the time they reached the hard stuff, three people had thrown up and several others had waved the white flag. The black turnip, buried underground for a year and allowed to rot before being dug up, covered with salt and eaten caused much of the gagging, as did the fertilized, rotten duck egg.
What could inspire a group of teenagers to sit down and willingly eat several types of food they’d never considering tasting otherwise? Money.
“I did it for the $50 prize,” said the winner, high school senior Michael Withers, who described the black turnip as “crunchy like a carrot but nasty.//”
”It was like eating vomit twice,” said Withers, who managed to get through more than a dozen rounds without throwing up.
Jacob Hammers, the Regency Park bBranch’s teen services manager, said the idea for the event came from researching what other libraries nationally are doing to bring teens into the library. The Fear Factor event sparked some interest among the stuff and teen regulars so without telling them what they’d be eating, Hammers started signing teens up to participate.
“We chose anything and everything we thought would be gross,” Hammers said. “If they don’t throw up, it’s not a good event.”
Events like the ”Teen fear Factor” bring kids into the library so that they have access to information and resources they might not otherwise engage with, Hammers said. It also helps them to build meaningful, long-lasting relationships with their peers and library staff.
Other events the library holds includes regular gaming nights, anime club meetings and library lock-ins, where teens stay overnight at the library and participate in a number of fun and educational activities.
For more information on events at Pasco County Library System branches, visit www.pascolibraries.org.