Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

Joey Chestnut doesn’t hate me!

Nathan's Famous July 4 Hot Dog Eating Contest and After Party.

Going to Coney Island on the Fourth of July is a miserable experience. Inevitably I am standing next to a drunk guy who dances to everything and bumps into me and steps on my toes every other second. Inevitably I am next to a group of guys chanting everything from “Joey Chestnut”‘s name to “ESPN” to “Mariah Carey” (at least they got wise to themselves and, at one point, started chanting “we’re obnoxious”). Inevitably I am either too close or too far away to get good photos. Inevitably thunder sticks, signs, American flags, and people climbing on each other’s shoulders get in my way of getting good photos. Inevitably I get sunburnt. Inevitably I get a headache from the chanting and the fact that I didn’t have any coffee and am not drinking too much water because there is nowhere to pee (and because of that as soon as the contest is over I run to the store and fall of my wagon and get my first Coke in over a year).

my first Coke in over a year

So why would anyone subject themselves to that for four years in a row?

Because, despite the heat and the crowd and the lack of visibility, it is one of the most amazing events to witness live each year. And, this year, I couldn’t imagine any better way to bid adieu to America.

I was somewhat far away from the stage, just enough that I could watch the contest just fine but not really get good photos. In fact, for the first time ever, since I didn’t bring my zoom lens, I started taking photos with my point and shoot instead.

I was however right next to Drumline’s own Nick Cannon, who was serving as grill master for the day. So I took way too many photos of him instead.

Nick Cannon at the grill for the hot dog eating contest

This year things were a little different: instead of one contest we got two, with separate divisions for male and female eaters. I’m mixed on my feelings about it. On one hand, some of the female eaters can definitely hold their own against the men. On the other hand, the separation allowed for more competitors, both male and female, to take the stage. I think if both were televised (only the men’s contest was live on ESPN) I’d feel more strongly about it being right.

That said, the women did an amazing job. Sonya Thomas won, though Juliet Lee was a dog ahead for a while. And Stephanie Torres came in a strong third in her Nathan’s debut.

Women's division at the Nathan's Fourth of July hot dog eating contest

After the women ate all the attention turned to the men.

George Shea announces the Nathan's Fourth of July hot dog eating contest

Adrian Morgan was presented with a trophy for rookie of the year (this is important foreshadowing for later) and Hillary Clinton was given an award for international relations (but sadly, was unable to be there to accept it).

Adrian Morgan wins Rookie of the Year

And then, soon enough, the men were off eating. Joey Chestnut was the clear frontrunner, but Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti was right behind for most of the contest. Some day we’ll bring the mustard belt to Chicago.

Adrian Morgan wins Rookie of the Year

At one point Tim “Gravy” Brown left the table. There was speculation that he reversed but he said later that he actually was choking on a dog. Be careful kids, don’t try this at home!

Tim Gravy Brown chokes at the July 4th hot dog eating contest

In the end Joey Chestnut came out on top with 62. Pat was runner up with 53.

July 4th hot dog eating contest

Afterwards it was on to the boardwalk to drink and catch up and try to figure out if it was hotter outside or inside of the bar.

And afterwards it was out to Manhattan to drink. Of course. And to watch the rebroadcast of the contest on TV. And to meet everyone I hadn’t met yet, like Stephanie and Matt and Larell.

Val and Stephanie

Matt Stonie

And remember how I said earlier that Adrian won rookie of the year? Well…what else would you do if you won a trophy…?

Pouring beer into the rookie of the year trophy

Pouring alcohol into the rookie of the year trophy

And I got a sip, because it was so rightfully my trophy anyways. My last place finish in the cupcake eating contest totally should have gotten me the honor…right?

Pouring beer into the rookie of the year trophy

And stuff happened.

And the best thing of the night: Joey Chestnut told me he doesn’t hate me!!! If you remember, every time I see Joey Chestnut he yells at me for being a Koby lover. But he now says he never hated me…and didn’t yell at me once at the party!

Joey Chestnut doesn't hate me

And then I said my goodbyes to the competitive eaters and friends. The plan as of now is that I’ll be back in the states in time for next year’s contest, but who knows how plans might change. Maybe I’ll even be able to see them eat in Australia or something. But even if I don’t make it next year I will be back again some day. Because even though I always start the day too early and by getting way too sunburned and end the day way too late and way too drunk, everything that happens in between makes the Fourth of July one of the best days of the year.


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.

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