Baton Rouge competitive eater Adrian Morgan downed 31 hot dogs and buns to place eighth in Monday’s 96th annual July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, N.Y.
The contest is a Fourth of July tradition sponsored by Nathan’s Famous Inc. and was aired live on ESPN.
For the fifth straight year, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, of San Jose, Calif., won the top prize of $10,000 and the coveted mustard-yellow belt.
Chestnut ingested 62 hot dogs and buns, besting last year, when he ate 54.
It wasn’t a personal best for the 27-year-old, but it was enough to out-eat second-place finisher Patrick Bertoletti by nine wieners.
This was Morgan’s first year in the contest.
“It was great. It was a lot of fun,” Morgan said from Coney Island on Monday afternoon.
Morgan said he was pleased with his “personal best” of 31 hot dogs, up 8 from his qualifying total of 23.
Chestnut started at a blistering pace but couldn’t beat his own record of 68 “because I kept messing up,” he said, pausing for a burp. “Excuse me,” he told reporters squeezed around him.
This year, for the first time, the annual contest in front of Nathan’s Famous fast-food stand was broken into two divisions, one for men and one for women.
Sonya Thomas, known as the “Black Widow” of competitive eating, won with 40 downed dogs, earning her $10,000 and her own pink champion’s belt.
Both Thomas and Chestnut broke world records in 2009, he with 68 and she with 41.
Since competitive eaters travel to different competitions throughout the year, Morgan said, he sees Chestnut and the other contestants quite a bit.
“This is the one contest where just kind of everybody is, you know, grouped together so it’s kind of awesome,” Morgan said.
“I ended up using pink lemonade,” Morgan said, of the technique of dunking the bun into a liquid before eating it. Nathan’s is the only eating contest that allows dunking.
“Yeah, it just works really well for me. Everybody uses different liquids,” Morgan said. “Joey (Chestnut) just uses straight water. Most of our liquid is hot.”
Chestnut’s chief rival, Takeru Kobayashi, stayed away from the contest this year, staging a separate competition where he ate 69 dogs in 10 minutes — which would have been a world record.
The slim Japanese champ held the record for hot-dog eating from 2001 to 2007. After refusing to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating, the fast-food equivalent of the NFL, he was banned from the competition last year.
This year, the Japanese native nicknamed the “Tsunami” held the unofficial contest from a rooftop on ritzy Fifth Avenue, eating near a giant plasma TV airing the official competition live.
With the contest behind him, Morgan said he and his group would be hanging out for a while on the Boardwalk at Coney Island before returning by train to New York City for an after-party at Midtown nightclub Turtle Bay with the other contestants along with friends and family.
Morgan is already thinking about next year’s contest.
“Oh yeah, I’ll be looking to make a return visit.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.