Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut face off at the 2008 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.

Dog Day Afternoon (Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest)

Tim “Gravy” Brown (Professional Competitive Eater): Wait…you’re…fans?
Me and Nadia: Yes.
Tim: That’s weird.

I think we’ve proved time and again that I am one weird chica. I wouldn’t even try to argue that one. But I think you know you have a problem when a COMPETITIVE EATER tells you that you’re weird for being a fan of COMPETITIVE EATING…


So this weekend Nadia, Bryan, and I flew half way across the country to New York City to watch the Nathan’s Famous Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest on the Fourth of July.

I like to think of that plan as awesome and not weird, thank you very much.

Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut face off at the 2008 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.

Friday morning we arrived at Coney Island (not so) bright and early at 9am (we arrived in NYC on Thursday morning…I’ll recap the rest of the trip later). Even though we got there three hours early there was already a big crowd and we weren’t able to get a prime viewing spot. We waited around on the outskirts and got some Nathan’s hot dogs and fries for breakfast. Soon enough they opened up another gate and we flooded in to try to get a better spot. Considering there were about 35,000 people there our spots were pretty good. But considering that there are a lot of tall people and people holding cameras in the air and people clapping thunder sticks it made it hard to see or get good pics. 🙁 All I have to say is thank god for my 300 uberzoom lens. (And all I additionally have to say is I am sososo sorry to anyone who I may have accidentally hit in the head…numerous times…with my uberzoom lens. It’s really long and I don’t notice what it’s doing.)

Eating my first Nathan's Famous hot dog at the 2008 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.

We watched the countdown clock do its business and listened to the many opening acts. There were a few bands, performances by Mr. Badlands Booker himself (one of the competitors who recently found his way out of retirement), and some trampoliners.

Finally the competitors were announced and one by one took the stage. They came out in everything from the plain contest tee to purple jackets to a 007 tux to Cubs gear (stay tuned to later in the post where I yell at him for that one…) to almost nothing at all…

Pat Bertoletti competes at the 2008 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.

Takeru Kobayashi made his entrance decked in red and yellow dyed hair inspired by the famous condiments, ketchup and mustard. I’ve been a CE fan for a while now and it’s been a goal to see Koby live so it was reassuring and thrilling to see him walk across the stage.

Last to hit the stage was Joey Chestnut, the reigning hot dog eating champion who last year at this time pulled ahead of Kobayashi to steal the Mustard Yellow Belt. Really, as much as I’m a Pat Bertoletti fan and want to bring the belt to Chicago, it was guaranteed that this would be a fight to the end between Joey and Kobayashi.

After introducing them all they were all sent away. These were merely the intros for the crowd and they would later do it all over again for the camera.

In the mean time we had more entertainment…including a marriage proposal and surprise “wedding” on stage between two fans.

Marriage proposal and wedding at the 2008 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.

Finally, the clock started winding down and the ESPN broadcast began with some pre-taped footage. Then the competitive eaters were announced and once again took the stage.

As the contest was about to begin they positioned “Frankster” the hot-dog mascot on one of the wings…who directly blocked the entire competition from our view. We all started chanting “Hot Dog Move” but the hot dog just thought we meant he should dance. Luckily someone got him out of our way just before the final ten-second countdown to the start of the contest began.

2008 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.

And then they were off…the competitors crammed Nathan’s Famous hot dogs into their mouths, dipped buns into water and koolaid, and crammed particles of food into every crevice their mouth could hold. Joey and Kobayashi were dead center and despite surges of eating power from their surrounding competitors it soon started to be their game. At any given moment it was hard to tell just who was in the lead and how many dogs had been eaten.

The ten minutes went by entirely too fast and in the end it was hard to tell just who won…and then they announced the results: it was a tie.

Takeru Kobyashi and Joey Chestnut both finished 59 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Crazy.

Since we can’t leave the Fourth of July battle at a tie between America and Japan that could only mean one thing: overtime.

Each competitor had five hot dogs laid in front of them. The one who finished first would be declared the victor.

Joey Chestnut eats five hot dogs in overtime at the 2008 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.

I couldn’t see much of it, since there was a photographer in the way (hmmm…what do I have to do to be that guy next year…) but from what I gathered they both ate their five hot dogs pretty darn quickly, but Chestnut managed to once again declare victory by stuffing five hot dogs down his throat in 50 seconds and America was declared the ultimate champion.

Joey Chestnut wins the 2008 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.

It’s hard to say how I feel about the outcome.

When you look at baseball I am not really a fan fan and even though I cheer on the Sox I don’t usually (or at least only playfully) diss too much on the Cubs. But when the crosstown classic hits I am a diehard Sox fan through and through. But with eating I respect each eater individually, and while I have my favorites, I never really care too much as to who wins over the other. I think I was kind of hoping for a Koby win because it was always a goal of mine to see him compete in person and it may have made my life to see him win. But I am happy either way. As Marge Simpson says “Can’t I just bet that all the horses will have a good time?”

Takeru Kobayashi comes in second at the 2008 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.


After the contest we headed over the after party at this bar on the boardwalk.

Yes, I got myself invited to the hot dog eating contest after party.

Yes, I am a crazy fan/groupie…but that ‘s OK…

So, last year after the Square Off the pics I took got linked to from a few places so a bunch of people saw them. Imagine my complete and utter shock when an email arrived in my inbox from one Mr. Patrick Bertoletti (my fav eater because he’s a Chicagoan AND has a mohawk). He saw my pics and wanted to respond. So before leaving for this contest I emailed him just to let him know I’d be going and he emailed me to let me know about the party.

So I talked to Pat a bit there, who, despite having eaten 38 hot dogs, said he was still hungry but saving room for beer.

At one point Rick The Manager came up and said to me “you look familiar.” I said I’m sure we hadn’t met but maybe he’d seen me at another contest. “What was your name again?” “Valerie.” “Wait, did you take photos for Humble Bob? I looked at your whole website!” Crazyness. 🙂 Usually when I hear “you look familiar” it’s because they for some reason think I am Kirsten Dunst (I still don’t really see it). It’s not often I get recognized for being me.

I decided to pick a fight with Tim “Gravy” Brown (another Chicago-based eater) because he had come out wearing a Cubs mask. Forget what I said earlier about not hating on the Cubs.

Me: What’s with the Cubs Gear?
Tim: I’m from Chicago!
Me: So am I. Go White Sox!

Competitive eater Tim Gravy Brown wears a Cubs competitive eating mask at the 2008 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.

I guess he can be forgiven since he said he’s not really a fan of baseball. And because he said that if Nad and I found him a Sox mask that he’d wear that next time. I’ve also decided that Tim Brown is awesome because he is a big fan of Troll 2. And anyone who likes crappy movies because they are crappy movies is ace in my book.

I gave Tim one of my nifty new “business” cards (I had these Moo Cards made up after the last contest I went to because I thought it would look cooler that scrawling out my website for people to tell them where they could find all the pics I took) because I’d taken a bunch of photos of him at the qualifier. He didn’t quite notice that I gave him one that had his picture on the back of it. Later he came up to me and said someone else pointed that out to him.

After a few beers and a bit of time hanging with the eaters we headed off and boarded the Subway back to Manhattan. It was a weird and wonderful and wacky day. But I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the Fourth.

More photos from the Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest:

p.s. I tried my best to get good photos, but it was really hard because we were a bit further back and there were peoples ‘ heads/thundersticks in the way. 🙁 So there aren’t any really good close ups of food spraying from faces like I got at last year ‘s Krystals…

p.p.s. Speaking of Krystals, they announced that the date of this year’s contest will be September 28…I really want to make it, but the 27th is the Opening Night Gala and Opera Ball at Lyric…how stupid of a plan is it to hop in my car in my gown at midnight after the ball and drive the ten hours to Chattanooga? And what the hell happened to red eye flights?


Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Sadie
    July 9, 2008at2:13 pm

    Loved reading your blog and looking at your pics! My life long dream is to see Kobayashi in real life too. As odd as it sounds… I remember seeing you at the Krystal Square Off last year. I must say, your idea of driving to Chattanooga at midnight is pretty damn cool, not stupid 🙂

  • Pat from Moonachie
    July 9, 2008at8:18 pm

    Good job getting the entire field of competitors in one camera shot, that couldn’t have been easy! …is this thee Valerie Bromann ..”Blog Queen of Chicago”?? 😉

  • Joey Chestnut
    June 15, 2010at6:10 pm

    You were pulling for kobayashi?!?! I will remember this ; )

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