Cricket-spitting has been a cornerstone of Spring Fest’s Bug Bowl ever since former Purdue entomologist Tom Turpin invented the game in 1996.
Now, thousands of people travel from all areas of the country to step up to the newly renamed Turpin Field for their chance to hock a dead cricket as far as they can.
Stephen Cameron, the head of Purdue’s entomology department, said the rules of the game are simple: Step on up, plop a frozen cricket into your mouth and spit it as far into Turpin Field as one puff from your cheeks will allow.
While the field extends about 50 feet, most people only manage to shoot their crickets between 10 and 20 feet.
The record spit this year was a whopping 33 feet.
Over the years, cricket-spitting has evolved from a delightfully quirky competition for all ages into an amusing way for the entomology department to get more people interested and involved with insects.
“It just raises awareness for the department and awareness for insects. It contributes to a perception that insects aren’t always bad,” Cameron said. “It helps build an appreciation for insects — it’s a part of nature, not something to be feared or hated.”
According to Cameron, the sport also helps people overcome phobias of touching insects by exposing them to bugs early on.
“If you played with insects early on, you’re probably not going to be disgusted by them,” Cameron said.
This could not be more true for 13-year-old Isabel Grcich and her family, who make the long two-hour drive from Knox, Indiana, every spring to participate in the many activities the Bug Bowl has to offer. Isabel and her mother, Melissa Grcich, have been cricket-spitting ever since they started attending the event three years ago and have never left Spring Fest without participating.
“We come here because it’s fun,” Isabel said. “Our favorite part is probably the cricket-spitting contest.”
This year, their experience really paid off, with Melissa Grcich winning fifth place in the senior women’s division and Isabel taking home a first place blue ribbon in the junior women’s division.
“Yeah, we’ll come back next year,” Melissa Grcich said. “We love it here.”