This July 4 on the Coney Island Boardwalk, horns will blare and a crowd will cheer while 20 men and 15 women will try to consume as many hot dogs as humanly possible in a Brooklyn tradition: Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
The 10-minute competition nicknamed Major League Eating’s ‘Super Bowl’ leaves the man and woman who can eat the most hot dogs with thousands in a cash prize and food-eating fame. But the contest isn’t just about the glory. Many say it’s also a celebration of patriotism and independence.
“The corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenue in Brooklyn is the epicenter of patriotism. You got America’s original hot dog on America’s original beach and nothing says Fourth of July like a hot dog in Coney Island,” said Richard Shea, president at Major League Eating.
The competition and July Fourth celebration, in nice weather, is expected to draw a crowd of more than 30,000 to 40,000 people.
“A lot of people are drawn to it for the Americana and the genuine nature of it all. It’s sort of established itself as part of the fabric of America’s July Fourth celebration,” said Shea.
According to legend posted on Nathan’s website, the contest is rooted in the American spirit. It began on July 4, 1916, when four European immigrants held “an impromptu hot dog eating contest to settle an argument about patriotism,” the legend says. The four men decided whoever could eat the most hot dogs was also the most American. As the legend goes, James Mullen, the Irish immigrant, won the contest by consuming 13 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Now, over 100 years later, his 13 hot dog record has been crushed.
Last year’s men’s champion, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, took home the golden belt and glory after consuming 70.5 hot dogs in the 10-minute time span. Miki Sudo took home the pink belt in the women’s division for the third straight year after downing 38.5 hot dogs.
Chestnut is expected to take the belt home for the 10th time, a record for the number of hot dog eating wins. But it won’t an easy victory. Matt Stonie, who beat Chestnut two years ago, is expected to put up a food fight and rising star Carmen Cincotti has shown promise, eating 53 hot dog in seven minutes to qualify.
It will be steep competition for Sudo as well. Though Sudo has taken home the belt for three years, prior reigning hot dog eating champion Sonya Thomas is expected to make the competition a close one.
Nathan’s will be making this year special giving away its millionth hot dog in a donation of 100,000 hot dogs to the Food Bank of New York.
Festivities including a stage show, dancers, music and crowd giveaways will begin at 10 a.m. The women will bring their hunger to the stage at 11 a.m. and the men will follow at 12:30 p.m.