Memorial day represents the unofficial start to summer, and what better represents summertime fun than the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest? On Saturday, May 24, one of the official qualifiers for the marquee event in competitive eating was held at Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet in Charlotte, North Carolina.
World champion Joey Chestnut was on hand to oversee the 10-minute, all-you-can-eat contest on the Coca-Cola Stage. The event featured top-ranked eaters, with Ronnie Hartman, a U.S. Army specialist, taking the top spot for male entries with 20 ½ hot dogs and Meredith Boxberger winning the female division with 18 hot dogs. This is the first time the qualifying tour has taken place at Coca-Cola Speed Street presented by Chevrolet, or in North Carolina.
"The arrival of the annual hot dog-eating contest circuit signals the beginning of summer," said Wayne Norbitz, president and COO of Nathan's Famous. "Nathan's Famous is proud to be part of the American summer and all the enjoyment that it brings."
The top male and top female finishers both earned a spot to compete in the finals at the original Nathan's Famous in Brooklyn, NY. In recent years, an estimated 35,000 fans have traveled to the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island on July 4 to watch the contest in person. The ESPN live telecast of the event has achieved top ratings, attracting millions of viewers each year since it was first aired in 2004.
Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., holds the world record for eating 69 Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 minutes in 2013, and he will seek his eighth straight title this year. Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, Va., will defend her title as Female Champion; she consumed 36 ¾ Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 minutes last year.
According to archives, the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest has occurred each July 4 in Coney Island, NY, since 1916, the year Nathan Handwerker opened the legendary restaurant. Major League Eating, the governing body of all stomach-centric sport, sanctions the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Circuit and ensures the contests are judged professionally and that safety standards are in place at each event.
Those interested in competing in the qualifier should visit the official Major League eating website to obtain information and register. All competitors must be over 18 years of age.