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July 4, 2015 was America's 239th birthday. To celebrate the occasion, residents hosted barbecues, sought out the closest fireworks shows and . . . watched in emotions ranging from total awe to horror, as the contestants of Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest tried to outdo each other by devouring copious amounts of hot dogs in ten short minutes.
Since 2007, the event has been won by competitive eater Joey "Jaws" Chestnut. The Vallejo, CA, resident, not only dominated the contest for eight years but also broke his own record several times. Chestnut's best showing came in 2009, when he managed to eat an astounding 69 hot dogs.
Though the record still stands, Chestnut's winning streak came to an end yesterday thanks to last year's runner-up Matt Stonie. The 23-year-old fellow Californian managed to gobble down 62 hot dogs, out eating the 8-time champion by two wieners.
In addition to dethroning the long-time champion, Stonie took home $10,000 USD in prize money as well as the coveted yellow mustard belt. Though this was the young man's first win here, Stonie is no rookie at winning eating contests. He previous victories include eating the most birthday cake (5.5 pounds in nine minutes) and frozen yogurt (10.5 pounds in just six minutes!)
But the 23-year-old champion who says he practiced hard for this contest better not the rest on his laurels. Chestnut has vowed to return and reclaim his title next year, saying that Stonie's win has made him "hungry again!"
The 2014 women's champion Miki Sudo managed to hold on to her title relatively easily. The Las Vegas, NV, resident downed 38 wieners, four more than former champion Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas of Alexandria, VA. Sudo's winning strategy? Eating the hot dogs first and then devouring the buns which she softened using Crystal Light.
The origins of this famous hot dog eating contest that takes place near Nathan's original location in Coney Island, NY, is a little hazy. For many years, the tradition was believed to have been started on July 4, 1916, (the same year the hot dog stand was founded), by four immigrants to prove their patriotism. However, given that there are no records of the contest prior to 1972, it is now believed that the story was concocted as a publicity ploy.
But as it turns out, even this interesting legend was not enough to garner public attention. The competition continued to be an obscure event known only to the locals, until 2001. That year, Japan's Takeru Kobayashi captured the world's attention by devouring 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes (the time has since been reduced to 10 minutes), more than double the previous year's winner. His incredible capacity to devour the wieners is what helped transform the unknown event into a Fourth of July tradition, one that is now streamed live on ESPN and watched by millions of people all around the world.