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CENTER LINE - Hot dog eating contest gets those patriotic juices flowing

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:48 PM

It's becoming a tradition around our house on the Fourth of July.

The annual Lions Club Parade, of course, is a must to start the day. And the fireworks, well, they are the perfect way to wrap things up.

But one of the highlights of the day comes right smack in the middle with the annual International July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest, sponsored by Nathan's Famous restaurant in Coney Island, N.Y.

And it was a great day for all Americans as San Jose's Joey Chestnut won the crown, taking the title from the Japanese competitive eater who has dominated the contest for years.

Chestnut scarfed down 66 hot dogs and buns before a throng of about 30,000. Takeru Kobayashi the six-time defending champion placed second with 63 dogs, competing despite a jaw injury.

The gorge-fest set a new record for Nathan's contest, and for Chestnut himself. Last month, Chestnut ate 59 1/2 hot dogs, besting the contest record Kobayashi set last year: 53 dogs in 12 minutes.

Shortly after the contest, Chestnut, who was draped in an American flag, told ESPN that winning the title "felt great."

"It's been held by Kobayashi six years," the San Jose State University student said. "And it comes back to the U.S. on the Fourth of July."

It's not quite Jesse Owens or the Miracle on Ice, but If that doesn't get your Red, White and Blue blood flowing, nothing will.

* * *

Last week legendary Funny Car driver John Force was in town for the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk.

Force was competing for the first time in an NHRA-sanctioned event in Norwalk, but definitely is no stranger here. He and Summit Park owner Bill Bader Sr. have worked on Night Under Fire shows for years and Force is a fan favorite.

When talking about Bader, Force called him the "P.T. Barnum" the circus promoter to whom history has incorrectly attributed the saying, "There's a sucker born every minute."

To many, such a comparison would be an insult. To a promoter, that's on the top of the praise chart.

People couldn't say enough good things about the Bader family before, during and after the four-day event. But as much as the track, the improvements and the race itself garnered praise, one of the things talked about most was the buck-for-a-pound-of-ice-cream promotion at Wild Bill's Ice Cream Saloon. A track spokesman said 24,994 pounds (almost 12 1/2 tons) of ice cream were served during the event.

Something simple like that can get you a ton of exposure (no pun intended). Good promoters can do that.

It's just like the guy at Nathan's Famous restaurant who came up with the hot dog eating contest. The restaurant couldn't buy that kind of exposure at any price.

* * *

Years ago promoters of California raisins were looking for a way to boost sales. There were animated characters, songs and tons of money spent on commercial time.

Before it was all said and done, the raisin industry made more money from the sales of their promotional items (shirts, stuffed dolls, etc.) than they did on selling raisins.

Go figure.

* * *

Next time you go to an Indians or Browns game, look at all of the shirts, hats and other team merchandise worn by fans. Where do you think all of that money is going? How many of you bought a Cavaliers hat or shirt this past spring?

P.T. Barnum would be proud.

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