Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest goes on without its star eater


NEW YORK — The annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest will see a slate of competitive eaters wolf down as many franks as they can in New York City on Thursday — but this year, the event’s biggest star will be chowing down 1,900 miles (3,000 km) away.

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, who won 16 out of the previous 17 contests, isn’t attending the competition over a sponsorship tiff. Instead, he’ll compete against soldiers at a U.S. Army base in El Paso later in the day.

That leaves the traditional Brooklyn event wide open for a new winner, with eaters from around the world competing on America’s Independence Day to see how many hot dogs they can eat in 10 minutes.

Thousands of fans flock each year to the event held outside the original Nathan’s location in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, a beachfront destination with amusement parks and a carnivalesque summer culture. ESPN will broadcast the contest live, kicking off with the women’s division at 11 a.m. ET, while the men’s will begin at approximately 12:20 p.m.

Competitors are coming from over a dozen states and five continents, with prospects from Brazil, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia and the Czech Republic vying for the coveted title and $10,000 prize money.

“There’s going to be a new champion,” Australian James Webb, who holds a world record for eating 70 doughnuts in eight minutes, said at a preview event in New York on Wednesday.

Last year Chestnut, of Indiana, chewed his way to the title by downing 62 dogs and buns in 10 minutes. The record, which he set in 2021, is 76.

Ahead of the event, ESPN said it would focus on two Americans with dedicated camera shots: Massachusetts high school teacher Geoffrey Esper, in the men’s division, and Florida dental hygiene student Miki Sudo, in the women’s.

Esper came second last year with 49 dogs and buns, though his personal best is 51. Sudo won her ninth title in 2023 with 39 1/2, but her best is 48 1/2, the women’s world record.

“I’m going to be pushing myself,” Sudo said Wednesday. Her rival Mayoi Ebihara, from Japan, said through a translator that she would eat until she passes out, with a goal of downing 50 hot dogs.

Chestnut was initially disinvited from the event over a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods, a company that specializes in plant-based meat substitutes.

Major League Eating, which organizes the Nathan’s Famous contest, has since said it walked back the ban, but Chestnut decided to spend the holiday with the troops anyway.

Chestnut said he wouldn’t return to the Coney Island contest without an apology.

The event at the Fort Bliss army base in El Paso, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, will use traditional franks, with Chestnut attempting to out-eat four soldiers in five minutes.

Even though he won’t be eating their vegan products, Impossible Foods is promoting Chestnut’s YouTube livestream of the exhibition by flying airplanes with banners over Los Angeles and Miami. The company will also donate to an organization supporting military families based on the number of hot dogs eaten at the event, a spokesperson said.



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