Hot dogs gobbled, small-town parades cheered to mark soggy Fourth of July

Former Bangor resident George Shea, CEO of Major League Eating, points to men's division winner Joey Chestnut, who was celebrating his win after the annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island in Brooklyn.
Eric Thayer | Reuters
Former Bangor resident George Shea, CEO of Major League Eating, points to men's division winner Joey Chestnut, who was celebrating his win after the annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island in Brooklyn.
Posted July 04, 2014, at 4:07 p.m.
Last modified July 04, 2014, at 4:57 p.m.

NEW YORK — Hot dog eating champs, backyard picnickers and small-town parade lovers pressed on with Fourth of July celebrations, some with less sizzle after wet weather on the East Coast postponed fireworks shows.

Hurricane Arthur dampened many Independence Day plans but didn’t wash out the annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York, where a slate of professional eaters competed for purses of $20,000.

World champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, 30, of San Jose, California, walked away with his eighth straight title after he inhaled 61 wieners and buns — short of his world record of 69 set in 2013. Chestnut was pitted against runner-up Matt Stonie, who took down 56 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Chestnut, who proposed marriage to his girlfriend on stage to roars from the crowd of about 1,000 people just before the competition, followed his win by patting his belly and declaring he felt “really good” about his win and impending nuptials.

The women’s contest saw an upset this year, with 28-year-old rookie Miki Sudo, of Las Vegas, toppling reigning champion Sonya Thomas, eating 34 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

“I love watching the guys stuff their faces,” Barbara Hicks, 43, of Queens, said.

While her beach plans were scrapped because of the rain, she intended to try the amusement park rides, including the famous Cyclone roller coaster and the newly opened state-of-the art thrill ride, the Thunderbolt.

“We’re going to have fun no matter the weather,” she said.

Roads were expected to be jammed during the busiest summer travel holiday weekend, with 41 million people traveling 50 miles or more from home, the American Automobile Association said.

That marks a 1.9 percent increase over the 40.3 million people who traveled this time last year, AAA said.

Travelers can be undaunted by the weather, even a Category 1 like Hurricane Arthur, experts said.

“People do try to err on the side of keeping their vacation plans in place. They want to go. They want to travel,” AAA spokeswoman Heather Hunter said.

Erin Hutchinson, 36, a marketer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who traveled to Maplewood, New Jersey, to visit family, was wearing socks with stars and stripes at the start of a 5K running race.

“We have an indoors back-up plan,” Hutchinson said, noting she would take her children, Ava, 9, and Kane, 4, to ice cream eating contests and a dog show that had been moved inside to a community hall.

With the storm approaching, towns along the east coast delayed Fourth of July fireworks displays to Saturday. Most towns in Connecticut put off festivities, while the famed Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular tried to beat the hurricane by quickly rescheduling to July 3.

In California, a fast-moving wildfire near the town of Julian, about 35 miles east of San Diego, destroyed 150 acres and two homes and prompted officials to cancel the local July 4 parade. By midday, it was nearly contained, said Cal Fire Captain Kendal Bortisser.

Another obstacle to a carefree holiday was a chicken recall announced late Thursday by California-based poultry giant Foster Farms. The producer said it was recalling some of the contaminated chicken linked to a massive months-long salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of consumers.

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