10 Extreme Eating Contests Across the United States

joey chestnut eating alongside sonya thomas at the buffalo wing competition Legend Larrys / flickr.com
Believe it or not, eating contests are more than seeing who can eat the most the fastest at the county fair. Major League Eating, much in the way Major League Baseball regulates baseball, is an actual organization that oversees professional eating contests nationwide. These contests take place during festivals around the country, celebrating heritage, food and culture. While you might not be on stage eating, stop by these festivals on your next trip to check out some of the country's best eaters. 
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Nathan's Famous Home of the International Hot Dog Eating Contest sign above the table where the eating competition takes place. Chun-Hung Eric Cheng / flickr.com
Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, July 4
Record: Joey Chestnut with 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes

The Nathan's Famous Hot Dog slogan asserts “This is the original,” and it’s true. Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest is the Super Bowl of eating competitions. The hot dog company has been serving up classic style hot dogs since 1916 and hosting the famous contest since 1972. Legend has it the contest began when four immigrants had an eating contest to prove who was more patriotic. The legacy continues as the competition takes place annually on the Fourth of July weekend. Since then, after many attempts by professsonal eaters, Joey Chestnut claimed the world record by eating 68 hot dogs in 2009, only to trump it again four years later with 69 hot dogs. By the way, that’s some 24,000 calories each time. While you might think this display is unnecessarily wasteful, the festival donates $10,000 to the Food Bank for New York City to help feed the hungry. 
 
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Woman with a skull painted on her face competes in Chacho's taco eating contest next to other competitors including Matthew Stonie. Chacho's
Chacho’s World Taco Eating Championship, August
Record: Matthew Stonie (pictured) with 101 tacos in 8 minutes

On his hometown turf, Matthew Stonie earned the title of "Chacho’s Taco Champion." Chacho's restaurant is a San Jose favorite and the festival reflects the fun, music-loving culture of its regulars. The restaurant opens the fest to taco trucks, musicians, and of course, hungry patrons.  
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Joey Chestnut eats wings at the Hooters Worldwide Wing Eating Championship. Hooters / TMZ.com
Hooters Worldwide Wing Eating Championship, July
Record: Joey Chestnut with 184 wings in 10 minutes

Which type of wing do you think has more meat? You’d be surprised. The so-called "flat" (the wing with two bones and meat in the middle) actually has a higher meat-to-weight ratio than a drumstick. Professional eaters know these facts. Joey Chestnut (pictured), whose nickname is "Jaws," tears apart the chicken wings, just as he does the dishes at many other contests worldwide. He can eat at a speed of 18.4 wings a minute—the winner takes home $8,500. Making money, eating wings, sounds nice, doesn’t it?  
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Pat Bertoletti and others eat gyoza messily at the Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza Eating Championship Shea Communications for Major League Eating
The Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza Eating Championship, August
Record: Joey Chestnut with 384 gyoza in 10 minutes

All-you-can-eat restaurants beware: Joey Chestnut might give you a run for your money.  Chestnut essentially ate 64 typical gyoza appetizers during the Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza Eating Championship. But gyoza is more than just the soft meat-and-veggie-filled dumpling we know and love: It's part of the Japanese culture that's celebrated during the Nisei Week Japanese Festival which raises money to support Japanese American Cultural foundations.  
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Matthew Stonie triumphs over Joey Chestnut in the final minutes of the 2014 Niko Niko’s World Gyro Eating Championship. Shea Communications for Major League Eating
Niko Niko’s World Gyro Eating Championship, May 
Record: Matthew Stonie with 24 Niko Niko’s Gyros in 10 minutes

Houston’s own Niko Niko’s Greek restaurant has been a local favorite since the day it opened in 1977, and its Niko Niko’s World Gyro Championship takes place during the Houston Annual Greek Fest, a celebration of Greek food, dancing, and culture since 1994. A Greek specialty, the gyro is roasted meat wrapped in pita bread, usually with some tomato, onion and Greek sauce.  
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Sonya Thomas slurps up oysters at the Acme Oyster Eating World Championship. Shea Communications for Major League Eating
The Acme Oyster Eating World Championship at Acme Oyster House, May/ June
Record: Sonya Thomas with 46 dozen oysters in ten minutes in 2014.

New Orleans celebrates its oyster pride annually at the New Orleans Oyster Festival. Acme Oyster House and other restaurants from around the city come together to show the country the importance of the Louisiana Gulf Oyster and to fundraise to keep the coast thriving.
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Competitors eat pork brain tacos at the World Brain Eating Competition at Zombie Pub Crawl. Shea Communications for Major League Eating
The World Brain Eating Competition at Zombie Pub Crawl 
Record: Joey Chestnut (pictured, third from right) with 54 brains in eight minutes

Even the undead need to eat, right?  The Zombie Pub Crawl is the largest gathering of "zombies"—who are actually partygoers in costume—in the world and they’re hungry. But don’t worry: The "brains" are actually pork. 
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Competitors eat fried asparagus at the Deep-Fried Asparagus Eating Competition Shea Communications for Major League Eating
Deep-Fried Asparagus Eating Competition at the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival, April
Record: Joey Chestnut with 12 lbs 8.75 oz in 10 minutes

Mom might’ve wanted you to finish your vegetables at dinner, but did she mean for you to eat 13 pounds of it? The San Joaquin Asparagus Festival honors the vegetable with live music, celebrity chefs, and plenty of asparagus. The asparagus surplus comes from the perfect growing conditions of the San Joaquin River Delta wetlands, making the Stockton area one of the country’s biggest producers of the stuff.  
 
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Competitors eat slugburgers at the World Slugburger Championship. Shea Communications for Major League Eating
The World Slugburger Eating Championship presented by Main Street Corinth, July
Record: Matthew Stonie with 43 Slugburgers in 10 minutes

The race to eat slugburgers is anything but sluggish. Competitors grab burger after burger, each a deep-fried patty made from beef and soy meal, mustard, onions and pickles. The ingredients were tossed together by the slugburger creator John Weeks and were oringinally called "Weeksburgers." Back when Weeks first brought the burgers to Corinth from Chicago in 1917, they sold for just a nickel. In Mississippi at the time, "slug" was slang for nickel and the name "slugburger" stuck. 
 
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The 72 oz Steak Challenge with a buttered roll, shrimp cocktail and baked potato.
Big Texan Steak Ranch 72-ounce Steak Challenge
Record: Molly Shuyler with three 72-ounce steak meals in 20 minutes

Finally, a challenge any eater can take on—even you. The Big Texan Steak Ranch restaurant charges $72 for each steak, but if you eat every bite, the money is refunded and you get the glory. Molly Shuyler, a mother of four, weighs 120 pounds yet she still managed to consume 13.5 pounds of meat, three baked potatoes, three shrimp cocktails, three salads, and three buttered rolls. And she did it all In 20 minutes. Do you have the courage to road trip to Texas for the challenge? 
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