I saw it! Yesterday the thermometer hanging from a tree in our RV space snapped onto the 120 mark. It was hot! I didn’t think of trying to fry an egg, but today I learned that in Oatman, a small town less than an hour from here, every 4th of July, they have a sidewalk frying egg contest. Notice, though, that puny Oatman only had a temperature of 113–practically sweater weather. The forecast for today here in Lake Havasu calls for 120 or more. Maybe I’ll test my sidewalk egg frying skills.
OATMAN – It really was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk Wednesday.
While Lake Havasu City may have set a new record with temperatures in excess of 120 degrees for July Fourth, the Mohave County community of Oatman set its own record with unofficial temperatures near 113 degrees for the 17th annual Oatman Sidewalk Egg Fry.
The Oatman Egg Fry each July Fourth challenges anyone and everyone to fry an egg without direct heat, using the sun and any extra equipment a contestant may wish to use to increase the sun’s power. Everything from a solar oven to a magnifying glass to reading glasses.
Taking top prize this year was a semi-professional, the host of the new series on Food Network, “Glutton for Punishment,” Bob Blumer.
“It sounded like a challenge too good to be true,” Blumer said.
Blumer’s show, which has already aired one season in Canada and debuts in the U.S. on July 10, forces him to face – and master – a culinary challenge in less than a week. In his first season he entered an oyster shucking contest in Virginia, he fished for catfish in Oklahoma and participated in a flair bartending contest in Las Vegas.
For the Oatman Sidewalk Egg Fry, he had five days to learn how to rig a solar oven from scratch and produce a sunny side up egg that was edible. He used a combination of a copper mold with dark pans pre-heated by a 4-foot wheel of mirrors reflecting the Arizona sun.
While Blumer was in Oatman for his show, others came for something different to do for the Fourth of July. John Aguirre brought his whole family from Los Angeles to visit the old mining town.
“It’s interesting,” said Aguirre’s daughter Tiffany Rodriguez, 18. “I’ve never seen anything like this (Sidewalk Egg Fry) before.”
“My wife participated last year and liked it so we thought we do it again, spend a few hours here, have lunch and have a nice get away,” said Garret Quiring of Bullhead City.
The Sidewalk Egg Fry originally started in 1983 as a challenge issued by Blythe, Calif. to all the communities along the Colorado River, to see which community was really the hottest. Only Bullhead City rose to the challenge, beating Blythe in the first Sidewalk Egg Fry.
In 1987 Bullhead City was the lone participant and when Fred Eck moved to the Oatman Chamber of Commerce in 1990, he brought the Sidewalk Egg Fry with him.
“We wanted to do something in July or August, when it’s hot. So I suggested the egg fry as the perfect thing to do,” Eck said.
After 17 years, the event is becoming a regular stop for visitors and participants. Like the winners in 1999 and 2000, Mark MacAlpine and his father Robert from Willow Valley.
“Well, in 2000 my dad beat a kid to win it and my dad felt pretty bad about that, so we do it just for fun now,” said Mark. “Having Food Network here this year is great. It’ll put Oatman on the map.”
The MacAlpine team, the Solar Chefs, finished third this year.
The youngest participant was Mohave Valley’s Isaih Crook at 2-year-old. He said it was “fun cooking the egg,” though dad Dan said there wasn’t much cooking.
“This was our first time here and we didn’t have anything with us, so basically all we did was throw an egg in a pan and watch it not cook,” Dan said.
State Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, was chief judge of this year’s Sidewalk Egg Fry contest.
“This was real fun,” McLain said. “It was especially enjoyable seeing the kids, they really seemed to have fun.”
Oatman is already known throughout Mohave County as the home of wild burros that roam the streets, an activity that harkens back to the early 1900s, when the town was home to a $10 million gold mining claim. The mines closed in the early 1920s, re-opened in the mid 1990s before closing again for good in 1998. Currently the mines offer tours.
The mines’ closings meant that tourism would be the primary source of revenue for the few residents that remained. The town got a flurry of press in 1939 when Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned there. And today the community is home to a trio of popular events.
In addition to the July Fourth Sidewalk Egg Fry, there are the Bed Races down the center of town each January. And on Labor Day there’s a parade and Burro Biscuit Toss, where the furthest toss of a hardened “biscuit” from a burro wins.
Plus at each event the Wild West re-enactors the Ghost Rider Gunfighters stage “gunfights” in the center of Route 66 for tourists.
“The people are so nice, everyone from shop owners and merchants to the residents,” said Blumer. “This is a place I wouldn’t have discovered without my show. But it’s a magical town, like a time machine.”