This is a breaking story, presented as a live-blog. Check back for updates throughout the day.
Welcome and happy Independence Day, fans of eating.
July 4 is an important day for America, for it is the day when the greatest eater in the world declares his ascendance.
The Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Competition is the biggest stage for professional gluttony — and this year’s contest is expected to be one for the ages.
Reigning chomp-ion and favorite Joey “Jaws” Chestnut arrives at the People’s Playground with five straight Nathan’s victories — and the mandible from San Jose is looking for his sixth Mustard Belt.
Winning this year’s contest means that Chestnut will tie the record for most Nathan’s victories, matching the number set by his bitter rival, Takeru Kobayashi — who for the second year in a row is hosting a separate-but-simultaneous hot dog-eating demonstration after reaching a contract impasse with Major League Eating and getting arrested in 2010 when he rushed the stage.
Chestnut first arrived on the pantheon of champions in 2007 after defeating the legendary Kobayashi in a surprise victory. Since then, he has dominated the competitive eating scene, overwhelming all challengers and setting the current Nathan’s record with 68 HDBs (hot dogs and buns) in 2009.
But this year’s contest won’t necessarily be a cakewalk.
Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti has beaten Chestnut in cheesesteak, chicken wing, and rib contests — and he desperately wants to be victorious in frankfurters as well. Though he’s considered a serious contender, Bertoletti has lost to Chestnut by at least nine HDBs in the past three contests.
In fact, Chestnut is so certain he will retain the Mustard Belt that the typically shy eater turned to social media to taunt Bertoletti in the days before the competition.
“We should do a banishment contest, loser never competes again,” he wrote on Twitter, before making a remark about Bertoletti’s anatomy that we cannot republish.
Check below for updates as they happen!
The women’s contest is almost underway!
Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas and 13 other female eaters are taking the stage in the second-ever women’s only eating competition in Nathan’s Famous history.
Thomas is the hands-down favorite and defending champion after consuming an astounding 40 HDBs last year.
She’s going up against fan favorite, “The Lovely” Juliet Lee as well as Joey Chestnut’s girlfriend, Neslie Ricasa, who put away 10.5 HDBs at a qualifier in Oklahoma last month.
Our reporter in the field says the crowd is going wild.
And they’re off!
They’re three minutes in and Sonya Thomas has already consumed 20 HDBs. She’s poised to obliterate the female record.
Sonya Thomas is ahead and broke her record with more than a minute remaining, but Juliet Lee is only trailing by three.
Sonya Thomas has done it: “The Black Widow” devoured 45 HDBs, setting a new world record for female gluttons, early reports indicate. Juliet Lee chewed a close race, coming in second with 41 HDBs. Judges will make the figures official soon and we’ll update immediately.
Official results are in: Sonya Thomas consumed 45 HBDs. But the on-stage counters got ahead of themselves while monitoring Juliet Lee — judges say she only put away 33 HDBs. Michelle Lesco came in third with 25.5 HDBs.
Draped in a flag, Sonya Thomas greets her fans, riding on the shoulders of a supporter. It is a proud day to be an American.
The tables are being set for the men’s contest.
Longtime competitive eater Eric “Badlands” Booker is rapping to hype up the crowd, as he does every year. Major League Eating President George Shea is playing the Flava Flav to Booker’s Chuck D.
In the days before the contest, vegan protesters from the activist group Mercy for Animals planned on infiltrating the Fourth of July eating extravaganza in an attempt to convince hot dog eaters and fans to rethink the sport.
The animal rights advocates railed against the competition, saying the estimated 1,500 wieners cooked up for the competition alone are a sign that the contest is decadent and depraved.
“This outrageous meat gorge fest is not only a gross public display of gluttony, but also promotes the cruelty, exploitation, and violence that animals suffer at factory farms and slaughterhouses before becoming Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters,” said Mercy for Animal’s coordinator Phil Letten beforehand.
The group planned to send about 30 anti-meat crusaders with a 10-foot-tall inflatable labrador puppy balloon in a bun, topped off with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, and cheese.
“Why love one, but eat the other?” the organization asked.
But there’s no sign of the activists from our reporter’s perch near the stage: either they didn’t show, or the masses of hot dog fans have swallowed them up.
Sonya Thomas on her female world record: “I’m going to be 45, and I wanted to eat my age.”
Judges for the men’s competition — including Brooklyn Nets guard Marshon Brooks — are being sworn in. The excitement on Surf Avenue is palpable.
Fans of competitive eating are fired up in Coney Island — but the ones watching from home are ticked off. ESPN decided to air Wimbledon, a tennis tournament, instead of the legendary eating contest at its traditional noon time-slot.
Major League Eating officials attempted to reschedule the hot dog contest for 3 pm, so it could be aired live on the sports network. But police said crowd control would be a problem that afternoon in Coney Island, with the Brooklyn Cyclones scheduled to play a home game.
So the contest will begin before 1 pm — but it won’t air on TV until 3 pm.
The biggest competitive eating event of the year is being webcast live on ESPN3.com, but that’s only available to fans who subscribe to certain internet service providers.
The eaters are taking the stage. Crazy Legs Conti is dressed like a leprechaun, and Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti is decked out in a black mohawk and wearing what our reporter describes as an “American flag banana hammock.”
We urge you not to Google that.
Tim “Eater X” Janus, in his traditional facepaint and Notorious B.O.B., with his famous necklace, take the stage.
Next up is Matt Stony, a 19-year-old from San Jose, Calif., who ate 42 HDBs to qualify. He comes from the same hometown as Joey Chestnut — let’s see if he’s got the same stomach.
It’s the moment the crowd has been waiting for: Joey “Jaws” Chestnut appears while “Teenage Wasteland” plays in the background. Unlike many of his rivals, Chestnut has no costume and gimmicks. This man is here for one thing: hot dogs. Make that two things: hot dogs and glory.
And they’re off!
Pat Bertoletti is ahead with 10 HDBs — Joey Chestnut is right behind with nine.
Matt Stony, the 19-year-old prodigy overtakes Tim “Eater X” Janus for third place.
It’s a three-way tie for first: Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, and Matt Stony have all consumed 19 HDBs so far.
At the seven minute mark, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut takes the lead with 25 HDBs. Whiz kid Matt Stony has 23 HDBs, while Pat Bertoletti — whose hands are bright red because he’s using his famous magenta mixer to soften the buns — has 22 HDBs.
It’s a battle between the mandibles from San Jose! Joey Chestnut and Matt Stony, both natives of the somewhat sleepy California hamlet, are in front.
Joey Chestnut leads with 43 HDBs. Tim “Eater X” Janus is behind with 36 HDBs, followed by Matt Stony with 34 HDBs, and Pat Bertoletti with 33 HDBs.
With two minutes left, Joey Chestnut has a comfortable lead after swallowing 55 hot dogs. Tim “Eater X” Janus is at 44 HDBs, while Pat Bertoletti has guzzled down 42. Newcomer Matt Stony is impressing the crowd with 40 HDBs.
“Joey! Joey!” the crowd roars.
It’s going to be hard for the reigning champ to beat his Nathan’s record of 68 HDBs.
With just 30 seconds left, Joey Chestnut is at 63 HDBs. It’s a race to the finish!
Unofficial results: Joey Chestnut wins again and ties his Nathan’s record with 68 HDBs. Tim “Eater X” Janus snags second place with 52 HDBs, beating Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti’s 50 HDBs. Matt Stony, the kid wonder, puts away 46 HDBs in his first-ever Nathan’s showing.
Results have not yet been verified. Eyes on the ground say Joey Chestnut managed to stuff four entire hot dogs into his mouth in the last eight seconds of the competition — a truly heroic attempt that might have backfired. It’s unclear if he managed to put them all away.
Chestnut appears winded and is looking down.
Our lip-reader believes he saw Chestnut utter the word “damn” — perhaps out of disappointment over not establishing a new Nathan’s record.
Still, he has won his sixth straight Coney Island contest, tying his longtime foe Takeru Kobayashi’s streak and setting himself up to make history in 2013.
It’s official: Joey Chestnut has tied his Nathan’s record with 68 HDBs. Tim “Eater X” Janus guzzled down 52.25, while Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti ate 51 HDBs.
Chestnut holds the American flag while the crowd chants: “ONE MORE DOG!”
“Teenage Wasteland” plays again while the 28-year-old eater enters the crowd.
Chestnut says he wanted to put away 70 HDBs.
“I’m super happy I could come back to Coney Island and defend my championship,” he said. “It’s a real bummer that I couldn’t break my record, but it shows I can match my best.”
Not full yet? Legendary competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi is hosting his own hot dog contest at the Bushwick pizzeria Roberta’s.
The famed eater — who bailed out of the Nathan’s contest in 2010 over contract disputes and was arrested when he tried to climb onto the stage — set a contested world record with 69 HDBs last year on a Manhattan rooftop, and he’s hoping to top that number this year in Brooklyn.
Unlike last year, when he ate alone, Kobayashi is sharing the stage with other eaters at the first-ever Crif Dog Classic. But none are expected to match his prowess.
Kobayashi’s most famous competitor is Stephanie Torres, who competed in Nathan’s last year and won a cupcake eating contest in Coney Island just days ago. There’s also a team of eaters from the website Reddit.com, among other contenders.
Just after the halfway point of the contest, Takeru Kobayashi’s on-stage scorekeeper put his tally at 50 HDBs — a stunning number that puts him on pace to alter the course of human eating history. That said, on-stage estimates at any eating contest are unreliable, especially midway through an event.
They’re done — and there’s still a chance that Takeru Kobayshi has set a new world record. The official count has not yet come in.
Takeru Kobayashi has consumed 68 HDBs, according to Dan Rollman, founder of the world records website RecordSetter.com.
After Takeru Kobayashi’s spokeswoman Maggie James consults with RecordSetter.com founder Dan Rollman, officials revise their earlier call — giving Kobayashi the win with 68.5 HDBs and saying he managed to put away the extra dog, but not the extra bun.
That’s fewer than he ate last year, but more than the 68 HDBs Joey “Jaws” Chestnut swallowed in Coney Island.
Stephanie Torres and Tom Gilbert tie for second with 31 HDBs each.
After officials give him the edge with 68.5 HDBs, Takeru Kobayashi leaps onto the table, flexes his muscles and shows his bulging gut.
The famed eater says his goal for the day was to consume 55 HDBs — but then something happened.
“I just got excited,” he said.