Matt Stonie vs Joey Chestnut. Miki Sudo vs Sonya Thomas. It’s the 100th annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Or is it?
“Showmen behind Nathan’s annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest have long claimed the tradition began in 1916 as a showdown between patriotic immigrants on the Coney Island boardwalk.
That would make this Monday’s contest a centennial, except for an inconvenient truth: The contest and its backstory were invented in the 1970s by PR men trying to get more attention for Nathan’s, which had just become a publicly traded company.
‘Our objective was to take a photograph and get it in the New York newspaper,’ acknowledges Wayne Norbitz, who served as president of Nathan’s for 26 years and still sits on the board of directors.
Norbitz is careful to say that the company’s source for the 1916 story is ‘legend has it.’ He says the first contest actually happened in 1972, and the early chowdowns were all small, sparsely attended affairs.
‘We’d honestly wait for a couple of fat guys to walk by and ask them if they wanted to be in a hot dog contest,’ he says.”
— “Behind famed hot dog contest, a whopper of a legend,” Michael Balsamo, Associated Press
“Competitive Hot-Dog Eaters Have Made America Great Again,” Walt Hickey, FiveThirtyEight
“The Aspiring Writer Who Became an Eating-Contest Emcee,” Ross Arbes, The New Yorker
“An ode to America’s favorite summer food — the hot dog,” Bruce Kraig, Washington Post
“Joey Chestnut eats 70 hot dogs, 17 more than Matt Stonie, to win Nathan’s title,” Michael Balsamo, Associated Press
Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
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