Hot dog winner

Contest winner Ryan Connor eats a hot dog. Derek Clarkston/Kodiak Daily Mirror

Dogs and buns will be flying on the Fourth of July. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has washed away most sporting events in America, one holiday tradition withstood the virus — Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. 

Thank goodness, because the annual Fourth of July contest is one of my favorites on the sports calendar. 

According to Wikepedia, the stomach-turning event debuted in 1914 and has only been canceled twice — in 1941 and 1971. 

Along with the rest of the nation, I started paying attention to grown adults downing dogs when the legendary Kobayashi hit the competitive eating scene in the early 2000s. The Japanese man — known for the Kobayashi wiggle — won six-straight Nathan’s titles, including a record of 53.75 dogs and buns in 12 minutes in 2006. 

Since taken over the crown from Kobayashi, America’s Joey Chestnut set a record of 74 dogs in 2018. 

He enters Saturday’s showdown riding a four-year winning streak — he’s won 12 of the past 13 events, with Matt Stonie edging Chestnut by two in 2015. 

There are a few changes to this year’s event. Instead of taking place on Coney Island in New York in front of thousands of fans, Chestnut will be looking to fend off five other competitors from inside an indoor arena with no spectators. Mike Golic Jr. will call the action for ESPN at 9 a.m. Alaska Standard Time. 

In 2016, Kodiak hosted its first — and only — hot dog eating contest. The even happened during Crab Fest in front of the Mecca. 

I’ve covered some pretty cool and history-making sporting events during my tenure at the Daily Mirror, but this one tops the list. 

I had a front-row seat to watch New York fisherman Ryan Connor devour 11 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes to win a medal — not the coveted mustard belt awarded to the Nathan’s winner. 

Connor ate two more dogs than crewmate Matt Tallman. 

“I have seen him eat before,” Tallman told me. “I’ve had to cook for him. He can put down the food. He is a horse.”

It’s a shame the event only lasted one year. 

“To have something that the kids could enjoy along with the adults at the same time was great,” organizer Stacie Fields told me after the event in 2016. “I watched the Nathan’s contest all the time, and I wanted to bring that to Kodiak.” 

Kodiak, it’s time to bring back the hot dog eating contest.

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