July 4th is a special day in America, of course. It’s the time to break out your American flag pants and majestic bald eagle shirts and celebrate our independence. Like most major holidays, the 4th is a day of traditions. Cookouts, swimming and fireworks are standard operating protocol for most folks. Another July 4th tradition occurs at Coney Island in New York, as Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs invites competitors from around the world to participate in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. This annual affair has grown in popularity over the last 15 years to the point where the contest is now nationally televised.
The first Nathan’s contest on record was in 1972, as Jason Schechter downed 14 hot dogs in 3-1/2 minutes. Over time, the contest duration increased to 12 minutes and went down to 10 minutes in 2008. From 1972 to 2000, the record for most hot dogs eaten was 25-1/8. However, in 2001, Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi destroyed that mark by eating a world-record 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes. The 128 lb. Kobayashi became an overnight celebrity, and the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest became a must-see event to see if the record could be broken.
For six straight years, Kobayashi defended the mustard-yellow championship belt (given to the winner each year) successfully, getting the world-record up to 53-3/4 hot dogs. However, in 2007, the United States regained hot dog supremacy, as Joey Chestnut defeated Kobayashi by eating 66 hot dogs, a new world record. Chestnut has won every year since, setting a new record in 2013 with 69 wieners consumed. In 2011, a women’s division was created, and has been dominated by Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, who holds the women’s record with 45 hot dogs.
This Year’s Contest
Chestnut and Thomas will attempt to defend their crowns once again against all comers. Regional contests are held earlier in the year to qualify for the Main Event. The event can be seen on ESPN2 starting at 12 o’clock EST. For more information on the contest, visit Nathan’s website here. And if your restaurant needs proper equipment or supplies for slinging franks, look no further. Check out Central’s website for all your hot dog grilling needs.