Joey "Jaws" Chestnut at the 2017 Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

Sipa USA

Calling All Food Fanatics: Coney Island To Host 102nd Annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

July 03, 2018 - 11:05 am
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Written by Mychael Schnell

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Ketchup and mustard, hotdogs and sauerkraut, July 4th and… the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

On July 4th, competitive eaters and fervent Americans alike will gather on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenue’s on Coney Island to experience the famed Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest from the very spot the event debuted in 1916.

The rules? Simple. The challenge? Daunting. Eat and keep down as many hot dogs as possible and go home with the coveted “bejeweled” Mustard yellow belt and $10,000.

The contest has grown and evolved in terms of competitors, spectators, and hot dogs eaten since its inaugural year.

Legend says that in 1916, when Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker opened up the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog stand in Coney Island, immigrant men were arguing about who was the most patriotic. To solve the debate, Handwerker posed a challenge: whoever could eat the most frankfurters had the greatest admiration for the U.S. Fable tells that Irish immigrant James Mullen won; becoming the first victor in what would become a long-standing American tradition.

While it is supposed that the premier contest was in 1916, the first recorded hot dog duel was in 1972. Brooklyn College student Jason Schechter won, devouring 14 hot dogs in three and a half minutes. The prize for this gluttonous achievement? A certificate book for 40 hot dogs.

Fast forward to 2017, when Nathan’s Famous held its 101st hot dog eating contest. American competitive eater Joey "Jaws" Chestnut took home his 10th mustard belt, eating 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes, and Miki Sudo, also an American competitive eater, captured her fourth Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest victory, devouring 41 frankfurters in 10 minutes.

Both victors were awarded a $10,000 check, certaintly a step-up from 1972’s 40 free hot dogs.

Now, more than 40 years later, the contest has become an American tradition and a highly anticipated event. In 2017, an estimated 35,000 spectators traveled to Coney Island to watch the 10 minutes of gluttony live from the Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand. And, for those who cannot make the trek to the original location, the event is streamed live on ESPN.

This year marked the 102nd frankfurter faceoff – and the stakes were as high as ever. Though, both Chestnut and Sudo defended their titles, bringing home the mustard belts yet again.

While the contest has come a long way since its launch, it still holds the same traditions as 1916 – just with more competitors, more spectators, and of course, more hot dogs.

For more information on this year’s contest or the history of the event, visit the Nathan’s Famous website.