Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest: 5 Fast Facts

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some of the finest food competitors in the world will gather at Coney Island to participate in this year’s annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest.

The chow down has been a July 4th tradition in New York City for decades. Here are five things you need to know about the competition:

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Decades-old tradition. According to Nathan’s Famous, the first official hot dog eating contest was held on July 4, 1972. Jason Schecter took home the top prize, consuming 14 hot dogs. Currently Matt Stonie holds the title, after beating out longstanding champ Joey Chestnut in 2015.

Nathan's Coney ISland

Nathan’s Famous is celebrating its 100th anniversary (credit: Glenn Schuck/1010 WINS)

Competition Lore. There is some lore that the annual hot dog eating competition was actually invented 100 years ago, after a group of immigrants challenged another to a chow down to see who was more “patriotic.” That story, however, remains unconfirmed.

Not everyone can participate. The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating/Major League Eating. Only people who qualify can participate in the contest, with several qualifying events held before the actual event.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 04: Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas celebrates her second place finish in the women's division of the 98th annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island on July 4, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas celebrates her second place finish in the women’s division of the 98th annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island on July 4, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Girl Power. Top-ranked competitive eater Sonya Thomas ate 40 hot dogs in 10 minutes at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest in 2011, setting a new women’s record and taking home the competitions first women’s only first place belt. Thomas, also known the competitive eating world as “Black Widow” defended her record in 2012 and 2013. She lost to Miki Sudo in 2014.

Celebrity Competitors. In 2003, NFL player William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry competed in the annual contest, after qualifying in an earlier round. He only ate four hot dogs.

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