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Next Stop is Atlanta for Nathan's Hot Dog-Eating Contest

Next Stop is Atlanta for Nathan's Hot Dog-Eating Contest

The annual pie hole-stuffing contest brings one of its qualifier events to Midtown Atlanta

Georgians with hearty appetites, take note: a Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest Qualifier is coming to Atlanta, so now’s your chance to wolf wieners with the best of them. On Saturday, June 15, Cypress Street Pint & Plate in Midtown will become the host of another year’s qualifier challenge, part of an annual circuit traveling to several cities nationwide.

The Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog-Eating Contest, for a spot in which Atlantans will compete on Saturday, has taken place in Coney Island at the original Nathan’s Famous location each Independence Day since 1916. The object of the competition is extraordinarily straightforward: to gulp as many Nathan’s franks as possible in ten minutes. Currently, the reigning champion is Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, who inhaled an inconceivable 68 dogs, and he will seek to defend his title for the seventh consecutive time this year.

But in Atlanta this weekend, plucky and adventurous eaters will compete for the chance to dethrone him. The event, according to Cypress Street’s Facebook page, will begin at 11:00 a.m., whereupon attendees will be served Shmaltz beers and Executive Chef Richard Silvey’s specialty hot dogs in anticipation of the action at 1:00. So if you’re in Atlanta and want to demonstrate your competitive eating prowess, or want to simply watch the contest while enjoying a bacon wrapped dog, Cypress Street is probably the best place for you to be this weekend. And make sure you check out the details here.

The Dark Side Of Eating Competitions That Nobody Talks About

When I was in college, a friend of mine entered a competition to win a Michael Kors purse. It would look great on her if she won, and in true girl group style, we were all excited to borrow it. The only problem? She'd have to shovel hot dogs into her face for about 5 minutes to win it.

The magic number for the hot dog eating contest was somewhere around 15, we guessed &mdash a feat that seemed reasonable. She'd always had a big appetite (her late-night McDonald's order was two McChickens, a McDouble, and a medium order of fries), but even this was a stretch. Still, she'd had her eye on the bag, and was determined to add it to her closet.

She spent the days leading up to the competition fasting to ensure her dominance. Dominate she did, and after downing eight hot dogs in five minutes (we were ambitious), they declared her the winner. She promptly strutted home with her new bag over shoulder &mdash only stopping to throw up every few paces. She was sick for the next two days, but by golly, she'd won the bag.

For some reason, food competitions have taken serious hold in American culture. Thanks to the annual 4th of July hot dog competition at Nathan's Famous on Coney Island, and hit shows like Man Vs. Food, food feats have become symbolic acts of cultural significance, with spectators crowding around and cheering the stunt of morbid obesity with morbid curiosity, like a car crash you can't look away from. The act has now morphed into a full blown 'sport' with ESPN coverage, but there's a dark side to these competitions.

Aside from the no-brainer health risks of weight gain and vomiting, competitive eating and drinking pose serious threats to contestants' safety. Developing serious health complications post-competition is nothing new, but could it be reaching new heights? Tragically, just last weekend, two competitors in two separate contests died from eating contests in the same weekend. The devastating accidents are just two examples of a larger trend according to the Eat Feats Database, more than 20 eating-competition deaths have been reported since 2010 alone.

But the danger isn't just in the amount of food, either scary-spicy food competitions like hot sauce challenges promise freebies and glory to patrons who can gorge themselves on spicy foods, but the repercussions aren't always as mild as having the spice sweats. In October of 2016, a man nearly died from a Ghost Pepper Challenge after uncontrollable heat-induced vomiting tore a hole in his esophagus. Doctors were able to repair the damage, but not before a two-week stay in the hospital, and several weeks of eating through a tube.

The dangers don't stop there, though. According to TIME, competitive eating can (and often does) cause irreparable damage. In some cases, the stomach will stretch so intensely that it can't return back to its normal size. This usually triggers uncontrollable nausea and vomiting, which can persist until a gastrectomy (read: stomach surgery) is able restore the participant's ability to eat normally. Other risks include choking, food poisoning, intoxication, water poisoning (yes, it's a thing), a torn esophagus, burst blood vessels, the irritation of idle food allergies, diarrhea, and death.

Major League Eating serves as the governing body of most eating competitions, and they maintain that safety is a top priority for any and all food challenges. Participants must be 18 or older to eat in a sanctioned MLE event, and most contests (sanctioned or otherwise) are careful to ensure participants sign liability waivers before participating. One would think the need for a release would serve as a forewarning measure, but if the number of reported incidents (and the likely droves of unreported injuries), victory T-shirts, and cautionary tales are any indication, it hasn't yet. It's not just food, though. Binge drinking competitions are still common in communities across the country (and probably always will be), with everything from beer to milk, even water playing the poison. College campuses have reportedly cracked down on binge contests &mdash evenly seemingly innocuous ones like chugging water &mdash to keep students safe. But how is it that the need for regulation slips away once we get beyond the school grounds? Do we really need someone to tell us that going HAM on hot dogs is super scary, and a totally terrible idea? As real-life grown-ups, shouldn't we know better?

It doesn't take long for the saying, "it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt" to start sounding like an empty platitude &mdash especially when someone's life is in danger &mdash and I'd say we're definitely there with binge eating. But it seems that the rise in incidents might finally be earning eating competitions their due consideration. Here's hoping we can learn from these accidents, as senseless tragedies like these are just too much to stomach.

COVID-19 can't stop one of America's biggest 4th of July traditions from happening . 'cause the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest WILL go down this year . but with some major changes.

TMZ Sports has learned . the event is set to take place at a private location without fans in 2020 . and will feature 1/3 of the competitors to ensure social distancing.

The hot dog eating contest usually draws thousands of fans at Surf and Stillwell Avenues on Coney Island each year . but given the global pandemic, it's all gonna be behind closed doors.

We're told all staffers will be wearing masks and gloves, and all eaters will be tested for COVID-19 prior to the showdown . and the location will be sanitized to the max.

As we previously reported, 12-time champ Joey Chestnut said back in April he was preparing for the event as if it were happening . so he'll be ready to try to smash his record of 74 franks in 10 minutes.

Play video content APRIL 2020

To make things even sweeter, Major League Eating -- the organization behind the event -- and the eaters are making donations to local food banks and will honor essential workers in NYC for their service.

The 10 Best Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Introductions by MC George Shea

The true spectacle of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest begins before anyone starts eating. Not everyone enjoys watching people scarf down dozens of hot dogs—understandable—but anyone with two ears and one soul can listen to the pre-contest competitor introductions in awe.

“He was first seen standing at the edge of the shore between the ancient marks of the high and low tide, a place that is neither land nor sea,” George Shea, the contest’s longtime master of ceremonies, said about one eater during the 2016 introductions. “But as the moonlight . filtered through the darkness, it revealed a man who has been to the beyond and witnessed the secrets of life and death.”

Yes, this is standard fare at the hot dog eating contest. Shea, the event’s MC since the early 1990s, the creator of the Major League eating competitive circuit, and perhaps the most gifted orator of his generation, crafts introductions that are pure theater.

Shea was an aspiring writer who studied literature at Columbia but went into public relations. He ended up running a PR firm with his brother where he managed the Nathan’s account, and the two turned the Nathan’s Hot Dog contest from a Coney Island sideshow into an international event televised by ESPN. Key to the contest’s success is Shea, who introduces each competitor with an irresistible allure that is part sermon, part carnival barking, and part prophecy.

Every year on America’s birthday, Shea shares his divine gift with the masses as he introduces another crop of Mustard Belt hopefuls. To celebrate the true hero of the competition, here are the 10 best Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest introductions of all time.

Honorable Mentions

24.5 out of 25 Foods

At the 2016 hot dog eating contest, Shea said that contestant Yasir Salem could “recite his 25 favorite foods, in reverse order of preference, focusing primarily but not exclusively on Mexican and Italian dishes.” Shea then proceeded to name 24 dishes, but stumbled on the 25th, running out of breath between “chicken scaloppine” and “tortellini.” It was impressive, sure, but Shea is a professional, and we expect perfection.

Shea Predicts the Future

“Deep in the future,” Shea begins in his 2013 introduction for Bob “Notorious B.O.B.” Shoudt, “after the wisdom of Donald Trump has been enshrined alongside that of Confucius—”

Shea gets points for this prophecy but demerits for not warning us what it meant.

No. 10: Marcos Owens, 2013

Soft piano chords float above as Shea’s soothing whisper begins. “In moments of stress, [Owens] imagines a field of grass swaying in the wind.” Suddenly, the piano gives way to a death metal guitar, the whisper crescendos, and we realize that Owens has a darker side. “In moments of anger, [Owens] imagines inflicting emotional pain and suffering on those around him. … Today, he is angry.”

Like the event itself, this introduction goes from zero to 100 in a matter of moments. The only shocking part is that Shea mentioned a field of grass without referencing The Sound of Music.

No. 9: Joey Chestnut, 2017

Chestnut has won the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest 10 times in the last 11 years. That success stirs the cauldron of Shea’s creative juices in a way no other eater can. This is the weakest intro Chestnut has gotten since 2011, yet the prose evokes Shea’s influences, James Joyce and Flannery O’Connor.

“He is the citadel, and he shall endure forever, because he is freedom,” Shea said as Chestnut rode a mustard-yellow chariot past dozens of fans in hot dog hats. “And he will fight until the dome of heaven collapses and the black avalanche of space pours down around him.”

No. 8 Crazy Legs Conti, 2016

Crazy Legs Conti is the French-cut green beans eating champion of the world (seriously). A Johns Hopkins graduate who looks like Jack Sparrow dove into a vat of glitter, Conti began eating competitively in 2002 when he ate 168 oysters in 10 minutes at a contest that April. His personal website describes him as, “an eccentric New York window washer, nude model and sperm donor, and huge fan of the annual July 4 hot dog eating competition.”

“He was buried alive under 60 cubic feet of popcorn, and he ate his way out to survival,” Shea bellowed. “And that is why we call him the David Blaine of the bowel, the Evel Knievel of the alimentary canal, the Houdini of Cuisini, Crazy Legs Conti!”

Unless my eyes deceive me, Crazy Legs spits glitter out of his mouth not once, but twice during this introduction. Did he swallow glitter before an eating contest?

No. 7: Joey Chestnut, 2012

With Chestnut looking to capture his sixth consecutive Nathan’s Mustard Belt, which would have tied him in all-time wins with the legendary Takeru Kobayashi, Shea positioned Chestnut as a beacon of hope the world could all turn toward.

“The rock on which he stands is not a rock! IT IS COURAGE! . Ladies and gentlemen, the no. 1–ranked eater in the world. The asparagus, and wonton, and corned-beef eating champion of the world. He has God’s username and password, and he does with it what he chooses!”

This isn’t Shea’s finest work introducing Chestnut, but the Sistine Chapel ceiling isn’t even Michelangelo’s finest painting. This is still epic work.

No. 6: Rich “The Locust” LeFevre, 2016

Quick: Is this man Bernie Sanders’s younger brother, or the spam-eating champion of the world?

“[LaFevre] is the unstoppable ninja force at the center of all lifepower,” Shea said. “And an accountant from Las Vegas, Nevada.”

LeFevre’s wife, Carlene, is also a competitive eater. And according to his Wikipedia page, which is obviously unbiased, he “is known for his strong jaw and for his capacity, which seems to increase, not decrease, as a contest progresses.” From now on he should be known for casually skyhooking streamers into the crowd before he takes the stage.

No. 5: Yasir Salem, 2015

“He will do whatever it takes to win,” Shea said. “Three days ago he broke up with his girlfriend and euthanized his dog to leave a void of emptiness inside of him that he can fill today with hot dogs and buns.”

Behold the raw power of the spoken word: These two sentences alone can make your jaw drop and heart sink. I still can’t believe I heard this live on ESPN2.

No. 4. Tim “Eater X” Janus, 2013

“He lost his arm to a Bengal tiger in a boyhood visit to the Atlanta zoo,” Shea said. Janus walked toward the stage. “But his arm grew back. He can speak Neutrino, the language of the sun, and all day long he listens to the conversations in the sky.”

We can laugh off Shea’s hyperbole with regard to most contestants, but when it comes to Eater X you kind of stop for a second and wonder whether it’s true. This guy does look like he could probably speak to the sun. The tiramisu, ramen, and nigiri sushi eating champion of the world evokes Patrick Star–level enigma vibes that Shea captures perfectly.

No. 3: Eater X, 2015

As great as Eater X’s 2013 introduction was, Shea topped himself in 2015.

“He was born outside of time,” Shea said. “A witness to all possible realities. He was there when the sea and the sky were mixed together as one and humans floated from the depths of the Pacific to the very edge of space where they looked out at the stars in the blackness.”

Side note: You know Eater X has no fears because he high fives like two-dozen people here before taking the stage to eat 35 hot dogs without getting an opportunity to wash his hands. Not even God knows what microscopic horrors lie on the hands of a crowd baking in the July Staten Island sun.

No. 2: Joey Chestnut, 2016

Shea told The New Yorker two years ago that great introductions must “ride the razor’s edge between joking and not joking.” In 2016, Shea dove off the cliff.

Two years earlier, at the 2014 contest, Chestnut had proposed to his girlfriend onstage before the contest—she said yes. The next year, just days before the competition, Chestnut and his fiancée ended their engagement, and Chestnut lost the 2015 contest for the first time in nine years.

Perhaps out of ideas after having introduced him for a decade, Shea used this very, very real story for the most cringe-worthy piece of television since the “Dinner Party” episode of The Office.

“Two years ago, on this stage, he asked his girlfriend to marry him,” Shea said. “And then last year, one week before the contest, the wedding was called off. And then on the Fourth of July he lost the title of world champion. And he was beaten, and he was broken, and he was alone. And nothing that he owned had any value, and his thoughts had no shape, and no meaning, and the words fell from his mouth without sound. And he was lost and empty-handed, standing like a boy without friends on the schoolyard.”

I want to reiterate that all of these introductions are ridiculous and mostly sourced from the imagination of one man. Except for this one, WHICH IS EXTREMELY REAL AND TRUE and was witnessed by MILLIONS of people. Based on Chestnut’s reaction, it seems that he was onboard with the sharing of these details, which means we can digest this epic tale guilt-free. Truth is better than fiction, and this is some ruthless truth. This might be the best introduction, but we can’t end on that note.

No. 1: Joey Chestnut, 2015

[The opening of Baba O’Riley plays in the background.]

“In a world of nothing. Of barren hills and cracked earth and once-proud oceans drained to sand, there will still be a monument to our existence. Bleached by the sun, perhaps, and blunted by time, but everlasting. Because this man represents all that is eternal in the human experience. … Through the curtain of the aurora, a comet blazes to herald his arrival, and his victory shall be transcribed into every language known to history, including Klingon. The Bratwurst, and Pierogi, and Hooters Chicken Wing eating champion of the world, eight-time Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating champion of the world, the no. 1 eater in the world, I give you America itself, Joey Chestnut.”



George Shea, not Joey Chestnut, deserves for his words to be transcribed into every language known to history, because George Shea is America itself.

What Does Competitive Eating Do to the Body?

Competitive eating is a little-studied phenomenon. So David Metz, MD, a gastroenterologist at the University of Pennsylvania, was thrilled when competitive eater Tim Janus offered himself as a guinea pig for study. Metz hopes that by studying people who seem to never get full, he can have a better understanding of the opposite phenomenon -- indigestion.


Metz studied how Janus's stomach handled huge amounts of food. In normal individuals, he tells WebMD, a full stomach sends a message via the vagus nerve to the brain, which then orders the stomach to contract and send food into the small intestine. Competitive eaters somehow block that signal even as their stomach stretches to enormous proportions. Otherwise, their digestion processes appear normal, he says.

Metz suspects that competitive eaters may have some natural ability to stretch their stomachs and may also be able to train the muscles in the stomach wall. To know more, he says, he'll have to study an eater over the course of a career. But Metz does know enough to be concerned about some potential long-term effects of competitive eating. "If you don't get that stretched feeling, that full feeling, and you don't tell your brain to switch off, then you're at risk of obesity," he says.


Another serious risk, Metz says, is gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis. If the stomach muscles are repeatedly overstretched, they may ultimately fail to contract, and the stomach will lose its ability to empty itself. Usually associated with diabetes, gastroparesis can cause chronic indigestion, nausea, and vomiting. It has no effective cure, Metz says.

Metz is impressed with top eaters' discipline and natural abilities. But for the general public, he has a message: "People shouldn't try this at home."


SOURCES: David Metz, MD, professor of medicine, division of gastroenterology, University of Pennsylvania. Joey Chestnut, San Jose, Calif. Hal Hunt, Jacksonville, Fla. Milton Stokes, nutritionist, Stamford, Conn. spokesman, American Dietetic Association. Shanthi Sitaraman, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine, Emory University School of Medicine.

Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest still set for July 4 — but here's how coronavirus will change 'the vibe'

While fireworks and beaches might be no-go zones in certain parts of the country this year, there’s one Independence Day tradition that you can still count on: the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The annual wiener-wolfing competition will air once again again live on ESPN on July 4, but, like other professional sports, the 2020 installment was nearly undone by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After all, the Nathan’s event typically features tightly packed competitors gulping down the frankfurters in front of thousands of cheering fans. This year’s installment had to radically retool in order to get a green light.

According to George Shea, chairman of Major League Eating, the organization that puts on the event, it appeared that the league would have to cancel this year until officials found a way to move forward with a safe scenario. This year, competitors will be on the stage in a warehouse where they will be seated six feet apart and separated by plexiglass dividers. Shea tells Yahoo Life that the accommodations would not provide “the same vibe and energy,” as when there would be 15 eaters, 20,000 to 25,000 fans, and up to 100 members of the media covering the contest.

The crowd “really would amp them up,” says Shea of the contestants, but now he is tasked with providing all of the on-site enthusiasm.

Still, Shea anticipates some exciting developments in 2020’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Shea predicts that 12-time winner Joey Chestnut will take home the men’s title. The competitive-eating legend, whom Shea calls “an American hero,” could also break his own world record of 74 dogs. As for the women, Shea believes Miki Sudo will win another championship, stating that “she will obliterate the competition.”

Sudo has taken the title every year since 2014. But this year, she not only has her eyes on the world championship belt but has set herself an even loftier goal. “Time for me to finally take that world record,” she tells Yahoo Life. Sudo does admit that the lack of fans presents a challenge.

“It really helps to have that crowd to feed off of,” explains the six-time champ. Still, as soon as the competitor learned that the event would move forward, she “hit the ground running,” and Sudo thinks she will be going into the 2020 competition “stronger than ever.”

The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest “is my favorite day of the year,” says Shea, while expressing that he also feels the pressure to deliver to the TV audience. The event may look different, but the important part is that the organizers are keeping the tradition alive.

Sadly, there will be some contestants who will not be able to attend. The event is held in Coney Island, and as a result of travel restrictions, competitors from Arizona and Washington will not be able to make the to New York.

Despite the changes, fans can expect excitement, and maybe even the making of competitive-eating history. Nathan’s Hot Dogs is also using the event as a platform to raise awareness of the importance of the country’s essential workers. The company will be donating 100,000 hot dogs to New York City food banks to help those in need during this challenging year.

The Nathan’s Hot Dog Competition will air Saturday, July 4 at 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT on ESPN.

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Not Even Coronavirus Can Stop Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Nathan's Famous will hold its annual Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest on Coney Island this year, the company announced.

But the novel coronavirus pandemic means the competitive diners will stuff themselves without a crowd to cheer them on, and not on the event's usual corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues, according to reports.

Only five competitors will join the 10-minute men’s and women’s contests, among them reigning champions Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo. the Wall Street Journal reports.

New Yorkers and hot dog aficionados can binge watch (get it?) the event — the first of which was held in Coney Island on July 4, 1916 — on ESPN at noon.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday New York City will also celebrate July 4 with a Macy's fireworks display.

He refused to share plans about how the city will avoid crowding and protect New Yorkers from COVID-19's spread.

"We're perfecting that plan but we'll be releasing it shortly," de Blasio said. "I think they've come up with a smart plan that fits the moment."

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Nathan&rsquos Hot Dog Eating Contest Event Schedule

The contest takes place on July 4, 2020 on Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island. The event gets things going at 10:30 a.m. and lasts until around 3:30 p.m. Official start times will be released closer to the event date.

Top Tips

If you ever find yourself in a hot dog eating contest, here are your best tips to take the belt home:

Break the dog in half and put it in your mouth separate from the bun

Clear out space but don&rsquot go completely empty

Stand up and go easy on liquids

History of Nathan&rsquos Hot Dog Eating Contest

The event has been occurring every July Fourth since 1972 in Coney Island, New York. Legend has it that the first ever hot dog eating contest occurred in 1916 when two immigrants looked to settle who was the most patriotic. As the exact history is yet to be solidified the legend continued to grow, gaining worldwide attention.

By the early to mid-2000s the sport was primarily dominated by Japanese contestants, particularly Takeru Kobayashi, who won six contents in a row. Plenty of competitive entertainment has followed as contestants don flamboyant costumes and even get a public weigh-in with the mayor of New York City. The event gets complete coverage by ESPN with live announcers in a party atmosphere.

Quaker Oats to Change Aunt Jemima Name, Finally Recognizing It’s ‘Based on a Racial Stereotype’

It only took a national uprising (and a viral TikTok) to make the company behind Aunt Jemima realize that the 130-year-old character, which was inspired by a minstrel show, should not be the face of pancake products (or anything). Though the image has changed over time in an attempt to shed the minstrelsy connections, Quaker Oats announced that it will be removing the image and the name. “As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations,” said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America.

Aunt Jemima has faced decades of criticism. “[The] Aunt Jemima logo was an outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance grounded in an idea about the ‘mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own,” said Riche Richardson, a professor of the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, in 2015. That same year, a judge dismissed a $3 billion lawsuit against Quaker Oats from the descendants of Anna Short Harrington, whose likeness has been used on the brand since 1937. Quaker Oats has not yet announced what the replacement name and logo will be. Uncle Ben’s rice, you’re next.

Hungry? Not like he was! Matt Stonie tops Joey Chestnut in Nathan's hot dog eating contest

CONEY ISLAND -- Matt Stonie shocked the competitive eating world on Saturday by upsetting Joey "Jaws" Chestnut at the Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Nathan's Famous in Coney Island, breaking Chestnut's bid for a ninth straight victory.

Stonie, 23, who finished second last year, downed 62 hot dogs and buns, beating Chestnut by two. Both are from San Jose, California.

As thousands of spectators at the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest observed the eaters on an elevated stage, the next closest competitor ate 32 hot dogs.

"I trained hard for this. This is actually amazing," Stonie told ESPN, which broadcast the competition live like the major sporting event its biggest fans say it has become.

Afterward, Stonie, holding his fist in the air in victory, said he came into the competition confident and prepared.

Chestnut, smiling in defeat, said he was slow and couldn't catch Stonie.

"I've been looking for competition for a long time and I finally have it," he said, vowing to return next year. "He made me hungry."

Early in the contest, Chestnut seemed to have a slight edge but Stonie moved ahead after several minutes and seemed to be slowly extending his lead until the final bell.

The men's contest came more than an hour after the women competed, with defending champion Miki Sudo capturing first place with a flourish that emphasized strategy rather than condiments.

The Las Vegas woman ate 38 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes to claim the title for the second straight year, along with the $10,000 that comes with it.

She retained the coveted mustard yellow winner's championship belt after downing four more wieners than last year and besting Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas of Alexandria, Virginia, who devoured 31 hot dogs.

Sudo employed a successful strategy of eating the hot dogs separately from the buns and swallowing the buns after first dipping them in Crystal Light.

A very light rain fell off and on before the event got underway.

The colorful holiday tradition draws its share of characters. Someone walked around dressed as a giant hot dog.

The spectacle also included a few chanting animal welfare protesters bearing anti-meat signs adorned with fake blood.

Security included police dogs that apparently were not thrown off by the scent of the grilled meat, along with police officers on rooftops.

Last year, Chestnut had room for 61 hot dogs, but his record is 69. "People want to watch the hot dog eating contest on the Fourth of July. It's part of Americana," says Chestnut. Matt Stonie trailed him last year.

In its 99th year, the contest is the Super Bowl of competitive eating. Every competitor has a strategy.

"I go right to Nathan's empty and ready - hungry and focused," says Eric Booker. Booker is focused on hot dogs, while America focuses on the contest.