Friends, family, and hot dog lovers alike gathered on Saturday at Chicago Dogs in Scarborough as both spectators and participants at the restaurant’s second annual hot dog eating contest.

For the second consecutive year contestants found themselves competing for the first place prize of 52 $10 gift certificates.

“Basically, the winner eats free here for a year. It’s something fun and different to do,” said Mike Shea, the owner of Chicago Dogs.

For the second consecutive year the contest had strong attendance, many of whom were friends and family of participating contestants. However, there were also a number of spectators in attendance who were there solely to watch the hot dog eating contest, an activity that has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon due to the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, which is held annually on the Fourth of July in New York.

The Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest requires contestants to eat only a hot dog and bun. However, Saturday’s contest found contestants attempting to eat as many loaded Chicago Dogs as possible within a 10 minute period. Loaded Chicago Dogs include hot peppers, onions, pickles, and a variety of additional toppings.

Participants used different strategies preparing for the event. Contestant Jennifer Beedy opted not to practice as she had an idea of her abilities. Zach Sawyer, a newcomer contestant, also opted not to practice, instead relying on past experiences in competitive food eating. Kurt Baker, another newcomer, prepared for the event by practicing earlier in the week during which he was able to eat 16 and a half plain hotdogs in 12 minutes.

Seated underneath a blue tent placed in front of the restaurant, the six contestants stared at hot dog baskets as Chicago Dog employees filled their cups with water. As the timekeeper signaled the beginning of the contest, spectators slowly shuffled towards the tent as they cheered on their favorite contestant.

At the end of the 10-minute period, two contestants, Sawyer and Kurt Baker, were tied for first place, prompting Shea to declare the winner to be the contestant that could outlast the other regardless of time constraints. In the end, Baker won the contest, finishing eight full hot dogs – tying last year’s winning mark.

Since opening in 2004, Chicago Dogs has experienced increased business each year, according to Shea. His goal in the near future is to open up a Chicago Dogs in the Old Port in Portland.

“My plan is to become a local chain,” said Shea, which is part of the reason he has decided to hold these annual hot dog eating contests. “It brings people out here,” he said.

A reason Chicago Dogs may be so increasingly popular is the fact that Shea uses some of the best, high-quality hot dogs in New England from Pearl Meat Packing Company in Boston. Bob Camelio, president of Pearl Meat Packing Company, came all the way from Massachusetts to attend Saturday’s competition to cheer on contestants, and he is confident that Shea’s hot dogs are the best around.

“We’ve been making hot dogs for 75 years,” said Camelio.

While the second-annual contest was a success at bringing attention to Chicago Dogs, Shea believes the enjoyment that those in attendance got out of this year’s contest will make the event successful for years to come.

Contestants pack away loaded hot dogs Saturday at an eating contest at Chicago Dogs in Scarborough. For the second consecutive year Chicago Dogs hosted an eating contest. “It’s something fun and different to do,” said Mike Shea, the owner of Chicago Dogs.


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