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‘Idiots’ worldwide are coming to Fort Mill. Why? The answer can make you pucker up.

Fort Mill’s PuckerButt owner hoping to go from fame to fortune

Ed Currie, owner of PuckerButt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, crossbred a pepper from the St. Vincent island in the Caribbean ocean with one from India to produce the Carolina Reaper, officially the world's hottest chili pepper according to the Guin
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Ed Currie, owner of PuckerButt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, crossbred a pepper from the St. Vincent island in the Caribbean ocean with one from India to produce the Carolina Reaper, officially the world's hottest chili pepper according to the Guin

Sure there’s a concert and a movie, but Saturday in Fort Mill is all about pepper.

Ed Currie with PuckerButt Pepper Co. has an event set to bring competitive eaters to town for a challenge many wouldn’t dare try.

“We’re hosting the inaugural invitational international pepper-eating championship,” Currie said.

PuckerButt is home to the Carolina Reaper, the world record holder since 2013 as the world’s hottest pepper. It’s a big deal in competitive eating. An Australian woman, Currie said, told him he’s a rock star where she lives and folks lined up online to support her getting here to compete.

“There are people from all over the world coming,” Currie said. “We’ve got people from just about every continent here. And there’s going to be some locals.”

The event is part of the last free summer concert series event in Fort Mill. Activities on Main Street begin at 6 p.m. Saturday. Food vendors will be there.

The pepper eating begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by ’80s pop cover band Cassette Rewind at 7:30 p.m.

A week later, on Aug. 9, the town will wrap up its Movies in the Park series at Veterans Park with “Ice Age: Collision Course.” The movie starts at 8:30 p.m.

Chris Sardelli, town spokesperson, said the pepper-eating event is something new, partnering the town with one of its downtown businesses.

“This is a unique event in that the town is providing the stage, but the logistics are all being coordinated by PuckerButt Pepper Company,” he said. “The owner, Ed Currie, has arranged for the contest to feature several professional competitive eaters from around the world, including from Australia and Ukraine.”

Currie said he expects thousands of participants and onlookers.

Many of the eaters won national events in their native areas. Currie plans to have a field of half international, half domestic eaters. So, what kind of people travel across the world to ingest something that could hospitalize a person if it goes down wrong? Or what makes a local try it?

Pure insanity.

“Oh yeah, we’re all idiots,” Currie said. “You can quote me on that.”

What’s far smarter is the business Currie and his Main Street shop have carved out for themselves in recent years. Next year he’d like to bring a hot sauce expo here, similar to some his team does elsewhere. People routinely challenge the Reaper. Some competitive eaters set to top one another for records of eating the most.

In addition to the challenge, many taste the Reaper in a variety of sauces and food items sold by PuckerButt. The company, named for the bodily response downing super spicy peppers can cause, now has more than 100,000 pepper plants and is one of the largest growers on the east coast.

Taco Bell recently announced menu items featuring the Reaper.

“We’re the largest organic hot pepper farmers in the U.S.,” Currie said.

PuckerButt has farms in Rock Hill, Fort Mill and other parts of York County. Currie said guests can come and watch the professionals on Saturday, or they can try the peppers themselves. If they’ve got a little “idiot” in them.

“If they’re brave enough, they’re going to be taking pictures and videos of people trying chilies,” Currie said.

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