Steamboat eats up return of Fourth of July hotdog contest

Ben Nierenberg celebrates winning the Steamboat Christian Center Hot Dog Eating Contest at the Routt County Courthouse on July 4, 2022.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

There’s nothing more American than eating way too much food for the sake of winning some cash. 

An hour or so after record-holder Joey Chestnut slammed down 63 hot dogs and buns at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York, Steamboat Springs held a similar competition on the lawn of the Routt County Courthouse. 

Dozens of people, mostly adolescent boys, sat at the long table in front of a stage to attempt to win $500. Following a brief and well-attended competition, Ben Nierenberg, a 30-year resident of the Yampa Valley, walked away with a full stomach and a full wallet. 

“Eat fast, swallow big chunks and drink a lot of water,” Nierenberg said of his tactic.

Nierenberg ate his ‘brick’ of 10 hot dogs, sans buns, faster than anyone else, clocking in at around a minute and a half. A few opponents were only a dog or two behind him. 

“They were room temperature hot dogs. The idea is to eat half a hot dog per bite,” Nierenberg said.

Nierenberg, who works at Perry Mansfield, has done a few eating contests before, so between his self-proclaimed strong ability to eat and his experience doing so in a competitive environment, he was pretty confident.

Dozens participated in a hot dog eating competition hosted by Steamboat Christian Center at the Routt County Courthouse.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

As he and many others shoved meat cylinders down their gullets, a crowd gathered and packed against the long table. Everyone screamed at their favorite competitor and held out their phones to record the All-American event. 

The event was put on by Steamboat Christian Center, who brought back the event that hasn’t taken place in seven years. The Christian center also gave out 1,300 hot dogs, two thousand bottles of water and one thousand popsicles to attendees and passerbys.

“Steamboat Christian Center is all about loving God and loving people,” said Jeff Sublett, outreach pastor at the Christian center. “That’s our vision. We wanted to love our community. … Our whole thing is to love people with no strings attached. Most people think of church. We just want to love the community and have a great time.”

Sublett said he hopes the competition is back for good and is an annual part of Independence Day in Routt County. 

In 2010, The Hungry Dog started a competition that ran for at least four years. That wasn’t attached to Fourth of July, though. 

According to the Nathan’s Famous website, the Coney Island contest is thought to have started in 1916 on Independence Day, as four immigrants battled at the first Nathan’s hot dog stand to prove who was the most patriotic by, of course, a hot dog eating competition. 

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