Celebrating the history of Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest

Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest


While 4th of July fireworks and events across America kick off after a sad hiatus in 2020, another Independence Day tradition also get backs to normal: The hot dog eating contest at Nathan's Famous in Brooklyn is back outdoors, where the gut-expanding spectacle is meant to be. Let's take a look back at the contest's history...

When did it start?

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Major League Eating (MLE), sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), has sanctioned the event since 1997 -- the event started in 1972 -- and America's appetite for it has grown every year. The field of about 20 contestants pursuing the coveted Mustard Belt.

Kobayashi: The original King of the Contest


In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the competition was dominated by Japanese contestants, particularly Takeru Kobayashi, who won six consecutive contests from 2001-2006. In 2001, Kobayashi transformed the competition and the world of competitive eating by downing 50 hot dogs —smashing the previous record of 25.5. Kobayashi has not competed in the contest since 2009 due to his refusal to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating.

When did women have their own contest?

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In 2011, Sonya Thomas became the champion of the first Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest for Women. Eating 40 hot dogs in 10 minutes, Thomas earned the inaugural Pepto-Bismol-sponsored pink belt and won $10,000.

The Joey Chestnut era

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American Joey Chestnut has won 14 of the last 15 Nathan's hot dog eating contests. In doing so, he has raised the hot-dog-eating bar.

Matt Stonie dethrones Chestnut

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In 2015, Matt Stonie stopped Chestnut's run of eight straight titles in a close battle. Stonie ate 62 hot dogs to the defending champion's 60.

Chestnut reign resumes

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Chestnut was back on top of game and frankfurter-eating world the next year. He downed 70 while Stonie was far behind with 53.

A new woman reigns

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Miki Sudo is an American competitive eater. Her most significant accomplishments are her victories in the women's competition at Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2014-19. Her 2014 victory in the contest unseated Sonya Thomas, who had won the women's competition since its inception in 2011.

The 2020 contest

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 event took place indoors. It marked the first time the competitive eaters were not be on the stage at Coney Island outside Nathan's Famous. Chestnut won his 13th title, continuing to build on his impressive resume.

And the 2021 winner is...

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Chestnut one-upped his dominance in 2021, eating a world record 76 hot dogs for his 14th title.