Hot Dog Challenge! How This Annual Festival Went Down

in General Outdoor Advice

Out on Coney Island, another battle-scarred victor has been crowned—on a battlefield of spongy crumps and ignored condiments. Another round of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has concluded—with elastic-stomached athletes the stars of the show.

There were no shocking upsets at these 2013 games, held as usual on the Fourth of July: The undisputed champions are familiar faces. On the men’s side, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, who’s taken the world hot-dog eating title for the past seven years, downed 69 wieners and buns to best by one his winning total from last year. Matt “Megatoad” Stonie, Chestnut’s nearest rival, mustered a mere 51.

Sonya Thomas, meantime—the “Black Widow”—scarfed 36 hot dogs (plus three-quarters of a 37th), enough to take the women’s crown but eight short of her world-record showing in 2012. Second-place honors went to Juliet Lee with 36 dogs.

These wild ones hoist trophies after the kind of sustained minutes of shoveling food into wide-open mouths that the average spectator can only humbly (and maybe hungrily) gawk at.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has been crowning competitive-eating champions since 1972. The contest has only really started to gain notoriety in recent years due to the rising fame of Takeru Kobayashi – a Japanese, record-holding competitive eater.

Competitors qualify via officially sanctioned regional contests and face the defending champion in a 10-minute battle of wills and gustatory athleticism. Whoever consumes the most hot dogs and buns (or “HDBs”) in that timeframe wins, taking home an ostentatious mustard-yellow (for men) or pink (for women) victory belt.

The festivities all went down at the original location of Nathan’s Famous, inc. restaurant at the intersection of Surf and Stillwell avenues on Coney Island in Brooklyn—a hallowed site for athletes and fans of professional competitive eating.

To tune in to the festivities, check out sites such as The contest has been covered by ESPN since 2003.

Professional hot-dog eaters tend to speak of such strategies as fasting ahead of the event and soaking buns in water to make them go down easier.

Chesnut famously prevailed over Takeru Kobayashi—who’d taken the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest title from 2001 through 2006—in 2007, edging out his rival with 66 hot dogs (in 12 minutes, the standard at the time); he tied with Kobayashi the next year in the first 10-minute showdown. (Because of contract disputes, Kobayashi—one of the world’s most well-known gustatory soldiers—hasn’t competed in Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest since the 2009 edition.)

In its writeup of the results, the NY Daily News put Chestnut’s victory in rather sobering perspective: His 69 dogs accounted for a whopping 20,010 calories as well as over 1,100 grams of gat and nearly 50,000 milligrams of sodium.

There’s no doubt that competitors such as Joey Chestnut and Sonya Thomas are true athletes—forayers in the rough and ready world of the gustatory wilderness. There’s nothing quite like attending the square off at Nathan’s Hog Dog Eating Contest—where an impeccable location colludes with colorful, masticating history.

Laura Bunbury is an entertainment writer. She covers fun events on entertainment blogs.

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