It only took a few seconds for Ocracoke Islander Kim Hansen to retain her championship title Thursday night in the Community Center as the top women’s arm wrestler in these parts.
Hansen, whose moniker is “Wrestles with Bears,” was among a dozen other women of all ages who assumed colorful personas to compete in this annual fundraiser for Ocracoke Community Radio WOVV 90.1 FM.
For the second year, Hansen bested rival Melessa Owsley, the 2015 champ whom Hansen unseated last year. In the title bout, Hansen took less than a few seconds to press Owsley’s arm to the bar. Owsley, of Rittman, Ohio, who visits the island for a few weeks a couple of times each year, competes as “Fat Jesus,” a character she created from the movie “The Hangover.”
It was a little touch-and-go for Hansen this year as she was nursing a right shoulder injury suffered a few weeks ago.
“I could feel the hurt and didn’t know if I could compete,” Hansen said while greeting well-wishers at Dajio after the event.
But compete she did, handily defeating several of the other competitors and earning the opportunity to once again hoist the championship belt, constructed of found metal objects and old vinyl LP records. She stressed that it wasn’t about her victory.
“It’s about our radio station and having fun,” she said. She hopes more women join in next year.
“We’re looking for all the ladies!” she said.
Announcers Bill Cole and David Allewalt joined in with costumes and classic camp showmen zeal rousing the crowd and tossing out WOVV T-shirts throughout night. Referee Giles Russell, who is also a nationally ranked arm-wrestler, loves coming to Ocracoke for this event. “This is my favorite tournament,” he said.
The competition was a double-elimination, so each contestant had a second bite at the apple, so to speak. Katy Mitchell as “Tink the Tank” took third place.
Part of the fun of the event are the costumes and names the competitors select, and prizes are awarded for the best costumes.
“Smackdown Spicey,” aka Connie Leinbach, won first prize with her portrayal of presidential press secretary Sean Spicer replete with portable lectern. Sundae Horn, aka “To Gnome Me is to Fear Me,” took second place and Sierra Crupe of Wheeling, W. Va., who was “Jacques Crushteau,” took third place.
Prizes for the winners for both the arm wrestling and costumes consist of gift certificates and assorted swag from island businesses.
“We sold 208 tickets and with the donations, the event raised nearly $3,000 for the community radio station,” said Tommy Hutcherson, WOVV president and DJ for the event. “We sold 209 tickets.”
Among this year’s competitors were “Ella Fist-Gerald” and “Blister Sister” and two participants from Maine who did not know each other beforehand, “Ms. Maine-iac,” and “Mainiac Momma.”
“Blister Sister,” aka Wendi McFarland, is from Boise, Idaho.
“I used to work here summers many years ago, so we decided to return with the whole family,” she said. She won several matches before being eliminated in her first-ever arm wrestling tournament. When asked if she was aware how strong she is, she said she wasn’t.
At the after-party in Dajio’s courtyard, Russell set up the official table, gave arm wrestling pointers and took on all comers.
Owsley relaxed with her daughter and friends at a table.
“I’m starting to get recognized as ‘Fat Jesus,’” she said with a laugh. “Between the locals and tourists, it’s really wild getting recognized as an arm wrestler.”
Her “Hangover” persona was a last-minute inspiration the year she first competed in 2015 since she happened to be wearing a “Fat Jesus” T-shirt. She and her daughters pay homage to the film yearly.
“We watch it traditionally two hours before we go to the tournament,” she said.
Visitors enjoyed the event.
Honeymooners Matt and Sarah Hammonds of Nashville, Tenn., happened upon it.
“We saw the flyers everywhere,” Sarah said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The tournament began nine years ago on SmacNally’s porch, and while it took place in other venues since then, it has been held in the Community Center the last two years.
Next year will be the tenth anniversary, Hutcherson, proprietor of the Variety Store and a WOVV show runner himself (The Rockin’ Radio Show, Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m.), said the group hopes to invite all past champions for a command bout next year.