It's time again for the hot dogs to start flying. Just over a year ago Charlotte hosted a regional qualifier that was pretty well attended by some of the larger names in the Major League Eating circuit. Juliet Lee and Hall "Hoover" Hunt battled it out to the very end, with Hall Hunt edging Juliet by just three-quarters of a HDB (hot dog and bun), setting a North Carolina record and personal best with 28.75 in twelve minutes.
This year, the official time has been dropped to ten minutes, after investigations have determined that the original contests took only ten minutes, rather than the traditional twelve. Why no one looked into it previously is a bit of a mystery, but that's the case, and so ten minutes it is. Chances are good that no one will be matching up with Joey Chestnut, but hey, it's good, clean fun, so who really cares, anyway? The stage was moved from the back side of Concord Mills around to the side, and it seems to have helped - a few more people showed up, even though there was no readio sponsor, and the event didn't seem to get much mention in local media.
Even Tom Sorensen, local sports reporter who wolfed down a monstrous helping of four HDBs last year, decided to cover senior center croquet this year. No telling why. I think he was afraid.
The event was actually much more coordinated this time around, with the emergency personnel on-site prior to starting time, and the kid's neat-eating contest starting right at noon - a good thing, since it was still a pretty hot day (not as bad as last year, but still hot). A handful of kids got up on stage and promptly devoured a few dogs in-between songs from Loosh, and just a few minutes later, the rest of the crew took the stage for the main event.
Unfortunately, Juliet Lee and "Super" Paul Barlow were nowhere to be seen, which meant that Hall Hunt was likely to have a bit of a cakewalk among local eaters (sorry guys, but Hunt is a pro). To his credit, Hall is a machine, and he started off with both fists flying. Within the first few minutes, he was setting a five-dog-per-minute pace. Had he been able to keep it up, it would have put him up around 50 HDBs, which would have been impressive indeed.
For someone of Hunt's stature, it's just impressive to see (he is a lot smaller than I am, and is apparently going to run a marathon soon). The guy is an eating machine, and there really wasn't any competition. There were a couple of local eaters who might one day make an impression, as they ended up in the mid-teens, but there really just wasn't anyone even close, considering Hall had finished 20 after three minutes or so. I don't think he even noticed, however, and he just kept powering through. Pretty amazing to see this guy eat. Since I'm not going to risk the crowd on Coney Island, it's probably as close as I'll ever get to the man.
Speaking of which, he's also a really nice guy - shook my hand and talked for a few minutes prior to the contest. He also has a blog, so check it out when you have a minute, and keep up on what's going on in the life of a professional eater. Anyway, Hall finally finished by getting almost to the end of his seventh plate. He couldn't quite fit the entire dog into his mouth when time expired, so he finished with 34.5 HDBs. That's an impressive gain of nearly 6 HDBs over last year, and a personal best - even more so when you consider that he did so in two minutes less than last year.
Way to go Hall, best of luck on Coney Island!