Perrysburg tradition tough to swallow for some

Teens gulp goldfish during rivalry basketball game

12/20/2013
BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tyler Whearty, back right, encourages a friend to eat the goldfish. Tyler ate 8 of them, but his friend couldn't convince herself to eat this fish.
Tyler Whearty, back right, encourages a friend to eat the goldfish. Tyler ate 8 of them, but his friend couldn't convince herself to eat this fish.

Tyler Whearty raised his hand that held a squirming goldfish, dropped it into his mouth and swallowed -- then repeated it seven more times.

The Perrysburg High School senior was one of a student section full of about 50 seniors who all left the bleachers Thursday at the Perrysburg-Maumee boys basketball game at halftime and went outside to swallow -- or attempt to swallow -- goldfish as part of a school tradition. 

"It is not as bad as you think," the young Whearty said. "You can feel it going down your throat swimming around down to your stomach."

The goal for students was to swallow at least one to say they did it and be a part of the tradition. Some showed off by consuming several, or just didn't want to waste a good goldfish and ate a peer's who could not bare to do it. There were no prizes, no one keeping track of who swallowed what. Just what they considered a fun tradition.

It was only the Perrysburg seniors who participated, not Maumee students.

Student Graesyn Pawlak initially was scared to do it because she heard that if you put the fish in backwards the moving tail could cut her. She overcame her fears and downed her goldfish and one of her friend's who couldn't do so.

"It was not as bad as I thought," the young Pawlak said. 

David Fatinikun holds his goldfish just above his mouth before dropping it in.
David Fatinikun holds his goldfish just above his mouth before dropping it in.

Anthony Glorioso and Justin Schmeltz both said it was horrible -- although Justin ate two. Glorioso was wise enough to have Powerade to help wash down the live fish.

"The kids have a good time and look forward to it," said Michael Short, Perrysburg High School principal. "Things like this make high school memories. They won't remember math, but they'll remember eating 14 goldfish."

Mr. Short said the tradition was moved years ago from the middle of the court at halftime to outside because it got so messy.

An old Perrysburg yearbook said the tradition started when a few seniors in the 1981 class ate worms and then some goldfish between the junior varsity and varsity basketball games against Maumee. Somehow, the tradition stuck.

"It went down fishy," Andrew Katko said.

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.