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The Hot Dog Eating Contest: A Tale as Tall as 73 Hot Dogs

Legend has it that on July 4, 1916, four immigrants gathered at the very first Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand in Coney Island and made eating contest history. As the story goes, they were competing to see who was the most patriotic. How did they determine the winner? With a hot dog-eating contest, of course!

So that’s how the Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest came to be held at our original Coney Island location every Independence Day since the first recorded contest in 1972.

And that’s why, at Nathan’s Famous, we believe there’s no better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than watching world-champion eaters down as many Nathan’s Natural Casing hot dogs as they possibly can in 10 minutes. In honor of the upcoming 101st annual contest, here are a few more interesting facts about the competition.

Did You Know? Fun Facts About the Hot Dog Eating Contest:

The Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest attracts over 40,000 fans each year and is broadcast on ESPN to nearly two million viewers.

The reigning champ, Joey Chestnut, holds the world record for the most hot dogs eaten at 73. That’s equivalent to about 16 pounds, or as much as 42 billiard balls!

Chestnut consumed over 12,000 calories in less than 10 minutes when he set the record in 2013. That’s as much as four Thanksgiving dinners!

Many competitive eaters, like those competing in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, practice stretching out their stomachs for the main event by drinking gallons of milk or water very quickly, or by downing lots of filling, fibrous foods like watermelon and oatmeal in a matter of minutes.

But three-time winner for the women’s bracket Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas doesn’t practice for competitions at all! She attributes her impressive eating abilities to natural talent.

Winners of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest have eaten a total of 1,509 Nathan’s Famous beef franks since the first recorded contest in 1972. That’s about 330 pounds!

If you laid all the hot dogs that past champs have eaten end to end, they would stretch around a baseball diamond 2.175 times!

Despite consuming mass quantities of high-calorie foods during competition season, most professional competitive eaters are very fit. Many contestants weight train and exercise vigorously to build muscle and increase their metabolism. Most also eat healthy, low-calorie diets after competitions. Why? Because their stomachs are so stretched out, they can no longer tell when they’re full!

Ever wonder why the contestants of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, like 2015 winner Matt Stonie, jump around and wiggle their bodies while inhaling as many hot dogs as they can handle? They’re trying to encourage the food to slide easily down the esophagus and settle compactly in their stomachs.

Will Chestnut the Champ Reign Again?

Over the years, we’ve had some pretty impressive contestants. But none deserve that mustard-golden badge of honor more than one Joey Chestnut, who not only holds the record for most hot dogs eaten at a whopping 73 franks, but has also held the title of reigning champ a total of nine times—eight consecutive years from 2007 to 2014 and again in 2016.

If not for the 2015 upset by Matt Stonie, Chestnut would have held the title for almost a solid decade!  How many dogs do you think Chestnut can eat this year? Tune in this Fourth of July to find out, and raise your franks up high to the reigning champ!

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