Beach Hot Dog Contest Approved As Qualifier

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City will host a qualifying event this June for a world-renowned hot dog eating contest on the beach after resort officials approved the special event this week.

During last week’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 contest at Coney Island to Ocean City in June. Each year, the famed contest takes place at historic Coney Island in New York and is televised nationally.

In the months leading up to the popular annual event, 12 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 Washington, D.C., Norfolk, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City and Santa Cruz, N.M.

Laurenzano has been in discussion with the event’s promoter, Major League Eating, to bring a Nathan’s hot dog contest qualifying event to the beach in Ocean City not far from 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. Last week, the recreation and parks committee voted to send a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council for approval.

On Tuesday, the council unanimously approved the event on the. The field of contestants will be selected and signed up by Major League Eating and the contest will not be open to walk-up contestants.

The Ocean City event will include a stage on the Boardwalk with the contestants lined up at tables filled with Nathan’s hot dogs and the requisite big cups of water, for example. The event will also include all of the appropriate signage, banners and other marketing materials provided by Nathan’s. The contestants and the famous Nathan’s emcee will face the ocean and spectators will be required to come down from the Boardwalk and onto the beach, according to Special Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell.

“The competitors would have their backs to the Boardwalk and people would have to come onto the beach to view the events,” she said. “There would be no impact on Boardwalk traffic or the tram operation.”

Councilman Tony DeLuca embraced the concept, but questioned why it was proposed in conjunction with the air show.

“I’m certainly in favor of the event,” he said. “I’m just curious why it has to be held during the air show.”

Laurenzano explained the date was provided by Major League Eating and Nathan’s offered little flexibility. However, there will be flexibility in the start time for the contest in conjunction with planned lulls in the air show festivities.

“The date the company has given me is the only one available,” he said. “I made them aware it is during the Ocean City Air Show. They said it could be a great complement to the air show in the first year. The thinking is it can be a stand-alone event in the future.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight agreed coupling the contest with the air show was a good idea.

“I think it’s very commendable,” she said. “There are times during the air show when there is a lull for 45 minutes to an hour. If you can coordinate the timing right, this could help fill in some of those gaps and might really enhance that larger event.”

Mayor Rick Meehan agreed, saying, “This is very exciting. It will get a lot of play and generate a lot of excitement. I think this has the potential to grow and become a really special event for Ocean City in the future.”

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.