Jasper Bartram won the first contest with a score of 12 comprising two direct hits and two cards landing on the rim of the saucepan and remaining there. This is the only time that anyone has balanced two cards on the rim of a saucepan in the same contest. Nora Smith is the only person to have scored a perfect 20 in this contest in consecutive years, performing the feat in 1956 and 1957, using what she called her waterfall technique. This comprises throwing the card high into the air and letting it fall vertically into the saucepan. This technique doesn’t work well in high winds and Nora Smith scored zero in 1958 when there was a heavy storm in the vicinity.
Another element added to the contest was the card structure contest, which started in 1869 after the Suez Canal was opened. This element was first held in an organiser’s shed because of the need for stillness, but the contest soon outgrew the shed and is now held in the local sports centre.
There are two types of competition – the first starts at 8 a.m. and is the ‘Build the Biggest Structure out of Cards” contest, which lasts until 6 p.m. No glue or any additional material can be used to hold the cards together. The largest structure ever made was the Pyramid of Cheops created in 1973 by Sandra Parsons, which had a base of 15 yards on each side and had risen to a height of twelve feet by the time 6 p.m. arrived.
The other construction competition relates to contestants creating a representation of a given building such as the Eiffel Tower, Stonehenge, or the Houses of Parliament. Each person has three hours to construct their version of these famous buildings using just playing cards. The winner will be the person with the most accurate rendition of the building. Reggie Swinson has won this contest five times since 1998. He uses two playing cards for each element of the construction giving his structures extra strength, rigidity, and permanence. Indeed, his model of the Coliseum from 2001 is on show in the local museum, due to the accuracy of the representation. It stands next to the museum’s only item of Roman pottery.
All the doors to the building are kept locked throughout the contest; this was after the disaster of 1958 when someone came in through the doors followed by a huge gust of wind that destroyed the structures.