66 Dogs, 12 Minutes, A Lifetime of Glory

Fireworks? Barbecue? Boston Pops? A celebration of independence? Bah!

As far as I'm concerned, the Fourth of July begins and ends on Coney Island, at the Nathan's Famous World Hot Dog Eating Contest. For 93 years, people have been lining up to see this freakish intersection of speed and gluttony, fascinated and appalled by the enormous capacity of today's competitive eaters. Last year, professional gurgitator Joey Chestnut performed a feat reminiscent of the Miracle On Ice, defeating six-time world champ and seemingly unstoppable force Takeru Kobayashi. Not only did Chestnut soundly beat the diminutive Japanese competitor, he set a new world record by eating 66 dogs and buns in just 12 minutes, 11 more than the previous top score.

Don't think you can just show up and join the fun; these days you have to win a qualifying contest to enter the Nathan's Championship. Go to the International Federation of Competitive Eating to check out other upcoming events, and get tips on how the pros do their grotesque thing.

St. Pete's own Dairy Inn will also hold their, much more relaxed competition on July 4th, starting at 11:30 a.m. Stop by the restaurant to pick up an entry form, along with a great burger and a shake.

You can also read my piece on competitive eating to get a little more background, as well as a glimpse into my own mercifully brief foray into the stomach-stretching arts.

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