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How Nathan's Famous turned competitive eating into a national spectacle

·1 min

Every Fourth of July, Jacqueline Lewis and her family gather to celebrate the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating competition. Lewis believes that people are curious about how many hot dogs a person can eat in a short time. The competition draws millions of viewers and thousands of spectators, and the participants train for months to consume thousands of calories in just a few minutes. Recently, reigning champion Joey Chestnut was barred from competing due to his deal with Impossible Foods, attracting national attention. Eating competitions have a long history, with contests for various foods dating back centuries. Nathan’s helped popularize the modern competitive eating spectacle, turning it into a grand event. The contest’s early years were local and modest, but brothers George and Richard Shea transformed it into a massive spectacle with dramatic flair. The event, now overseen by Major League Eating, became a platform for publicity and brought mainstream attention to competitive eating. Some view eating contests as a symbol of American excess, while others see it as a celebration of indulgence and joy.