Chewing gum in school can earn you detention. In extreme anti-chewing societies like Singapore, gum-related crimes can get you fined or even jailed.
But check the underside of any desk or movie theater seat; stroll down the sidewalks of any major American city and face the sticky truth: We are a nation of chewers - masticating misanthropes like Violet Beauregarde, never further away from a fresh piece than the nearest purse and never, ever violating the unwritten law of tearing into a pack without first asking "Would you like a piece?"
All that lip-smacking could pay off big on Saturday as local gum-lovers 12 years and under will come out of their corners chewing loud and proud during the sixth-annual Dubble Bubble National Bubble Blowing Contest at Wal-Mart.
Larry Neitman, department manager of the Wal-Mart on Highway 395, just south of Carson City, says he expects a big turnout for the contest, which goes locally from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The contest takes place inside the store, next to the candy aisle, across from the jewelry department.
The rules are simple: One piece of gum ... one chance to blow your way into the books and see your name next to the likes of gum greats like Kelsey Lea of Conway, Ark., last year's national champ, whose 18 and one-half inch bubble was the winning wad.
The bubbles are measured with an official Dubble Bubble Meter, essentially a finely tuned gum-gauging caliper.
From the nation's 3,000-plus Wal-Marts will come only five lucky blowers whose bubbles reach critical mass before critical mess and qualify for the prestigious National Finals to be held in late July or August. There, they'll have a chance to win the grand prize - a $10,000 savings bond and the opportunity to present a $1,000 donation made in their honor to their hometown Children's Miracle Network hospital, according to National Bubble Blowing Contest spokeswoman Jaci Kotzum.
They'll also be competing for the title of "Dubble Bubble National Bubble Blowing Champion" for 2005.
Each of the four runners-up will receive a $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond and will have $1,000 donations made in their names to local children's hospitals through Children's Miracle Network.
Neitman says an eight- or nine-inch bubble is a respectable blow.
While the contest is free and the gum will be provided, Wal-Mart is running a special on Dubble Bubble - two one-pound bags for $3.
n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.
Interested Dubble Bubble National Bubble Blowing Contest participants should visit the Indian Hills Wal-Mart store from 11 a.m.Ð3 p.m. Saturday.
On the net
For more details, go to www.walmartstores.com or www.dubblebubble.com.