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Feast of the Fourth Hot Dogs and American Tradition

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is a celebrated and widely recognized event in American culture, drawing crowds and media attention each year from all over the world. Known for its sheer spectacle, competitive spirit, and storied history which includes iconic champions like Joey Chestnut, Takeru Kobayashi and Matt Stonie.

The roots of this eating extravaganza traces back to 1916. Nathan Handwerker, founded his famous stand on Coney Island, NY with just $300 to compete against his former employer Feltman’s Restaurant. He sold his hot dogs for five cents versus Feltman’s ten cents. Guess who won?

According to popular legend, the first hot dog eating contest was held on July 4, 1916, to settle a dispute among four immigrants over who was the most patriotic. It began to gain significant attention in the late 1990’s, largely due to the efforts of George Shea, the co-founder of Major League Eating (MLE) and the master of ceremonies. He is an orator extraordinaire, a showman and wordsmith who began publicizing the event and building it into a globally recognized celebration which is covered live on ESPN and watched by millions.

Another key figure in the contest’s modern history is Joey Chestnut, an American competitive eater and true hero (at least if you ask George Shea). He first competed in 2005, but in 2007 cemented his legacy by defeating the six-time champion from Japan, Takeru Kobayashi. Sadly, my family witnessed live “Kobayashi’s Revenge” as he regained the coveted Mustard Belt in 2009. Chestnut was re-crowned the champ in 2010 and only lost once more in 2015. He holds the world record with 75 hotdogs eaten that was set in 2018. Wouldn’t our forefathers be proud?

The fierce competition and personal rivalries among contestants not only fuel the enthusiasm, excitement, and drama but also underscore the event’s cultural significance. Tied to quintessential American traditions like the Fourth of July, hotdog eating, and competitive feasts, this contest has woven itself into the fabric of Americana, serving up a mix of nostalgia and contemporary entertainment. Just remember to keep some Tums handy when you tune in!

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