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Friday, May 6, 2016

Weekend reign

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Christian Ratliff (right) and Hillary Weiss stand behind his 25th birthday cake -- provided by Goodies Galore -- after being named the 2009 Clay County Popcorn Festival King and Queen Saturday evening. The cake read, "Happy Birthday Christian; Popcorn King for the Day." [Order this photo]
*Conneticut resident named 'Popcorn King'

Some people will travel anywhere for good food, and for one couple, the search took them 900 miles from home this weekend.

On Friday, Christian Ratliff and Hillary Weiss left their home in Middletown, Conn., hopped on a plane to come to the 2009 Clay County Orville Redenbacher Popcorn Festival.

Middletown, Conn. Resident Christian Ratliff prepares to eat his next piece of popcorn during the Popcorn Eating Contest Saturday. Ratliff and his girlfriend, Hillary Weiss traveled to Brazil to attend the 2009 Clay County Popcorn Contest and celebrate his 25th birthday. [Order this photo]
Knowing popcorn was one of Ratliff's favorite foods, Weiss decided it was the perfect place for a weekend getaway.

"After seeing the Popcorn Festival on the Food Network, I said 'We have to go,'" Weiss said.

In preparing to make the trip, Weiss told The Brazil Times she stayed in contact with Popcorn Festival Board Publicity and Marketing Director Glen Brown from the moment she saw the festival featured on Food Network's "Sunny's Summer Eats."

"I immediately went to the festival's website, found the number for Glen and spoke with him on and off for the past month or two, continually making plans," she said.

Ratliff said he was so excited to come to a festival featuring his favorite food he worked extra time to ensure he could take a day off to come to Brazil.

But little did he know his girlfriend of two years had something up her sleeve, and about 20 minutes before Blue Moon Swamp took the Forest Park Bandshell stage Saturday, emcee Eric Brown called the couple up for a special announcement.

Within moments of reaching the stage, Ratliff and Weiss were named Popcorn Festival King and Queen, capping off a more than unexpected 25th birthday celebration for Ratliff.

"It definitely came as a big surprise because usually Hillary is not very good at keeping a secret," Ratliff said while eating a piece of cake provided by Goodies Galore. "But she managed to top last year when she gave me a surprise party with a lot of my friends from high school that she had never met before."

Ratliff added the entire day was special, due especially to the fact it involved a food he has always loved.

"The first time I remember having popcorn was when my mom took my to my first movie when I was about 4," he said. "It is one of, if not my favorite foods and I will even go to a 'chick flick' just for the popcorn, even if I'm not interested in the movie."

Popcorn plays such a big role in Ratliff's life that he said his hot air popper was the first thing that was plugged in when he and Weiss moved into their apartment.

However, Saturday wasn't just a day to just enjoy his birthday and the festivities, he wanted to participate in the fun.

Ratliff told The Brazil Times his favorite part of the day was being able to make some of the popcorn which was handed out at the Popcorn House, followed closely by taking part in an event which took a slight nudge to convince him to do.

"It was a lot of fun competing in the Popcorn Eating Contest," he said.

"I'm usually a little bashful, but everyone kept pulling on my leg to get me to enter."

Coming from a city more than five times the population of Brazil, the couple admitted it was a nice departure from their daily life.

"Everyone here has been so welcoming and the hospitality was so great," Ratliff said.

"With all the hustle and bustle in Middletown and Connecticut, it was nice to come out, even for one day."

"Things are so much more relaxed and the people are much more polite here," Weiss added, saying the couple was heading back home Sunday. "While I had helped make the plans for while we were here, it even surprised me when they told me his birthday was going to be celebrated as well."

The couple enjoyed the experience of the Popcorn Festival so much, they agreed they would want to come back at some point, with friends and/or family, to be a part of the entire event.

"This is something we definitely would like to do again," Weiss said.

"There is a lot of character here," Ratliff added.

Clay County Popcorn Festival Board President Evelyn Brown crowns Christian Ratliff Popcorn Festival King Saturday during the 2009 Clay County Popcorn Festival as Ratliff's girlfriend, Hillary Weiss, looks on and emcee Eric Brown announces the crowning. Ratliff and Weiss traveled approximately 900 miles from Middletown, Conn., to attend the festival and celebrate his 25th birthday. [Order this photo]
"But, I think we would drive out next time because it would probably be a lot more relaxing to get here."

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