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See it: Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest qualifying comes to Fort Myers

Lee Herald Favicon 16Eating contests are a uniquely American thing, so it makes sense that the most famous eating contest of them all takes place on the Fourth of July.

Pablo Martinez will be returning to the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island this year, after once again winning a Fort Myers qualifier on Saturday at Hammond Stadium.

“Florida’s such a unique place, and this stadium is gorgeous,” Martinez said. “Fort Myers has always been such a great place to come to and hang out, the people are really genuine.”

Martinez finished 25 hot dogs and buns, half a dog fewer than his winning effort in 2017, but still enough to punch his ticket to New York. Kathy Tesch won the women’s division with 10 hot dogs and buns.

Joey Chestnut holds the all-time record with 73 hot dogs, set at a Washington D.C. qualifier in 2016.

“It was a free lunch, I guess,” said Ben Brown, an employee with the Miracle who competed. He finished five in the 10-minute contest.

Competitive eating has been growing in magnitudes every year, with Nathan’s Hot Dog variant dating back to 1916. According to legend four immigrants held it at the first Nathan’s on Coney Island with the winner declared “The most patriotic”.

It has grown on several dozen fronts, going out to food items such as oysters, mayonnaise, sweet corn, sliders, and cheese curds, and a professional circuit, Major League Eating, has sprouted up around them.

But Nathan’s is still the crown jewel.

“It’s super humbling to even have a seat at the table with some of the most impressive eaters in existence,” Martinez said. “I’m just happy to have a shot.”

 


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