On the 4th of July in 1916 four recent immigrants to America stood on a street corner on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York at high noon and challenged one another to a Nathan’s hot dog eating contest to prove who was the most patriotic.  It was to be ten minutes in duration, “you cannot suffer urges contrary to swallowing,” competitors must eat hot dog and bun, they can separate hot dog from bun, they can dunk the bun in water no longer than five seconds, in order to count toward total you must eat equal portion of hot dog and bun.  Those were the rules 98 years ago and those are the rules to this day.  Or maybe that’s a myth that a promoter fabricated in the 1970’s, but regardless, for the sake of a good story, always go with the myth.

A regional competition will be held Saturday, May 3rd, at Memorial City Mall at noon.  The competition will begin at noon (high noon – it’s in the rules) so plan on getting there much earlier.  There will be side attractions for photo’s and coupons.  Among the contestants will be nationally-ranked competitive eaters so expect steep competition.

Richard Shae, the president of Major League Eating, who sanctions the events, says an amateur can usually manage to down 7-10. 

“The top performing male and the top performing female will earn a spot to compete in New York on July 4th,” says Richard Shae.   

The importance of detailing the rules, and knowing that the rules have not changed in 98 years, is to appreciate how the record from decade to decade has escalated.

“In the mid 90’s, the record was in the 20’s,” says Shae. “If an American eater could get in around 20 it was astonishing.  And there was a Japanese guy named Hirofumi Nakajima in the late 90’s got up to 24 and a quarter, and then a Japanese eater named Kobayashi ate 50, which was just the mountain-top.  If he’s eaten 30 I’d have been equally surprised.”

Then came Joey Chestnut of San Jose, CA, who won for three straight years (2007-2010), set a record of 68 in 2012, has won the last three years straight, and is the current world record holder of 69 hot dogs and buns.  Sonya Thomas holds the women’s record at 45.