Nathan’s OC Franchise Seeks Hot Dog Contest Qualifier

OCEAN CITY — Although there are details to work out and approvals to be gained, a qualifying event for the world-renowned Nathan’s Fourth of July hot dog eating contest on the Fourth of July could come to Ocean City.

During Tuesday’s Recreation and Parks Committee meeting, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs Ocean City Boardwalk franchisee Russell Laurenzano told committee members he was in discussion with bringing a qualifying event for Nathan’s famous 4th of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island to Ocean City in June.

In the months leading up to the popular annual event, pre-qualifying events are held at different venues in cities all over the country. For example, the list of last year’s qualifying events included cities such as Washington, D.C., Norfolk, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City and Santa Cruz, N.M., for example.

Laurenzano told the recreation and parks committee on Tuesday he is working with the event’s promoter, Major League Eating, to host a Nathan’s hot dog contest qualifying event on the beach in Ocean City near his Nathan’s franchise on the Boardwalk near 3rd Street on Saturday, June 13, which is also the Saturday of the Ocean City Air Show this year.

“It would be a pre-qualifier for the famous 4th of July contest at Coney Island,” he said. “I think it would be natural fit to bring it to Ocean City. This event has Nathan’s name on it, but it’s really sponsored by a national competitive food-eating organization. I’d be supplying the food and the staging and they handle the rest.”

Laurenzano said hosting the potential qualifying event during the air show made sense because of the size and scale of that event and the enormous number of people it brings to town.

“It’s a natural fit to coordinate with the air show,” he said. “It’s one of those All-American events and it gets national coverage. It’s in our best interest to showcase Ocean City and also let people know the brand is here. I’m excited about it. It could really give the town some national recognition.”

Laurenzano said the air show starts around noon and the promoters are hoping for a time frame between 1-4 p.m. He said naturally the air show is the big star on that date, but the hot dog eating contest could contribute to the buzz if coordinated properly. He said the hopes is the it could stand on its own as a special event in the future.

“Everybody will be looking up at the jets and there is a lot of noise,” he said. “We would look for a time when there is a little lull in the air show. The timing is going to have to be adjustable. We would try to avoid competing with the jets and other major acts. Even with amplification and microphones, the hot dog eating contest couldn’t be heard with the jets flying over.”

Special Events Director Frank Miller said the hot dog eating contest would need to be carefully coordinated with the air show.

“If the council ultimately approves this, you’d probably have to narrow down that window,” he said. “We could work with the air show and let them know this other event is going on and coordinate the best time.”

Councilman and committee member Mark Paddack made a motion to forward a favorable recommendation to the full Mayor and Council.

“Parking is horrendous during the air show,” he said. “I don’t know how many people will come just for this event, but that entire Boardwalk will be packed. It could be a home run. The air show is a huge event and there will be no shortage of people up there interested in watching contestants jamming hot dogs down their throats.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.