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How the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Went From Sideshow to Worldwide Phenomenon

50,000 people visit Coney Island every summer to watch the weird, intense sporting event

Coney Island is an iconic New York tourist attraction known for its boardwalk, beaches, rides, and games. But on July 4, people flock to it for an entirely different reason — the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. In fact, some 50,000 people swamp the corner of Surf and Stillwell every summer to be spectators for one of the most intense, weird, and downright American sporting events. The spectacle is broadcast worldwide via ESPN each year and recently spawned an installment of ESPN’s award-winning documentary series 30 for 30.

“It’s my Super Bowl,” says Joey “Jaws” Chestnut — an American competitive eater currently ranked first in the world by Major League Eating. Chestnut is among competitors who every year assemble onstage to see who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes. “Competitive eating is a little out there,” admits Chestnut. “But not the Fourth of July Hot Dog contest, that one’s a part of pop culture.”

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