Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Photos: Inside the Zany, Drama-Filled Spectacle of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

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July Fourth means one thing in New York’s Coney Island: dozens of men and women gobbling as many hot dogs as possible in front of a roaring, banner-waving crowd.

It’s a beloved American pastime. Since 1972, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has gathered frank lovers across the world to gorge themselves in pursuit of cash prizes and a bejeweled mustard-yellow (for men) or pink (for women) belt.

This year, under the sweltering sun, master of ceremonies George Shea barraged the crowd with entertainment leading up to the competition. He spoke to the crowd in Latin. Sung a rendition of “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper. Twerked to “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston. And introduced the men’s event by soaring into the sky on a lift as a church choir performed below him, the Nathan’s logo emblazoned in red, white, and blue behind them all. He moved with such passion that his hands slightly trembled. This would normally signal nerves, but in George Shea’s case, he may have been fighting the urge to start breathing fire.

The men’s reigning champion, Joey Chestnut, was not allowed to scarf down dogs under Nathan’s name this year due to a competing contract he had with Impossible Foods. His absence was missed: In a nod to the record holder (76 hot dogs), Shea declared on stage: “I would take a bullet for Joey Chestnut.” In the end, Chicago native Patrick Bertoletti swiped the winning title with 58 hot dogs.

In the women’s event, defending champion Miki Sudo brought home the trophy for the 10th year in a row while setting a world record, gobbling down 51 hot dogs with her double-dog technique (two at a time). Mayoi Ebihara of Japan held up her second place trophy, barefoot and through bittersweet tears, as she thanked the crowd for their support.

Now in its 52nd year, this fest has morphed into one of the most anticipated American events to exist, combining brand stunts, Independence Day, capitalism, and sweet, sweet, ketchup-and-mustard-drenched glory. It’s not just a competition at this point—it’s a whole spectacle.

Photography by Ashley Markle.

Image may contain Baseball Cap Cap Clothing Hat Photography Wristwatch Accessories Glasses Face Head and Person

Contest judges take a selfie in front of the stage.

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