Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is always a big event, drawing thousands to Brooklyn’s Coney Island to cheer on some of the world’s most accomplished competitive eaters. But this year’s edition proved extra special for historical, dramatic and sentimental reasons.
Making history was Joey “Jaws” Chestnut. The San Jose, California, resident was no stranger to the Coney Island contest before he won his seventh hot dog-eating title Thursday. That’s cumulative and consecutive, as he’s won each of these events since 2007.
But it’s how he did it this time — topping his own record by gobbling 69 frankfurters and buns in 10 minutes — that proved one for the record books. His 69 downed dogs is the most by anyone since the competition began in 1916, and one ahead of the 68 mark he’d set last July 4 as well as in 2009.
“Sixty-nine is the magic number,” Chestnut told ESPN, which broadcast the event. “Came out here, the crowd pushed me, they would not let me slow down. And it’s awesome”
While there was no doubt Chestnut would win after he pulled away to top his nearest foe by 19 hot dogs, the same couldn’t be said for the women’s event.
Every bite counted as Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas and Juliet Lee dueled down to the wire. When the clock ran out, the scoreboard had it as a tie — 36 hot dogs apiece.
But the judges tipped the scales in Thomas’ favor, ruling that the Alexandria, Virginia, resident had gorged on 36¾ hot dogs. That was ¾ more than Lee, enough to give Thomas her third title despite the fact her final tally was far below the 45 hot dogs she put away last Independence Day.
Still, Thomas and Chestnut’s championships were significant as much for where they took place, as for what they did.
Parts of Coney Island, on Brooklyn’s southern coast some 12 miles south of Lower Manhattan, were ravaged eight months ago when Superstorm Sandy rolled through.
Scores of businesses and backdrops that tens of thousands associate with summer fun suffered major damage there and in other places, like the Jersey Shore.
Yet the hum of amusement park rides and the buzz of the throngs packing to cheer on Chestnut, Thomas and others on Thursday is proof that, for one day at least, Coney Island is back.