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Zelienople hot dog eating contest ups the ante

Bring it on
Gobble 20 dogs and buns in 10 minutes and you’ll win $1,000
Kyle Jamison reacts after winning the championship belt during the Horse Trading Days’ hot dog eating contest in Zelienople in July 2022. Butler Eagle File Photo

Some of the most popular events of Zelienople’s Horse Trading Days — which kicks off Thursday, July 20, for the 59th time — are more recent additions to the festival.

These include the Hot-to-Trot 5K (entering its eighth year), the dog show (its third year), and in its fourth year, the ShuBrew Hot Dog Eating Contest on Saturday, July 22.

The rules for the hot dog contest are simple: Ten competitive eaters down as many hot dogs (in buns) as they can within 10 minutes. The hot dogs are Nathan’s, the same brand used in the famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, held every Independence Day in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In previous years, the winning total of hot dogs consumed has hovered around 10. To encourage competitors to gorge more hot dogs this year, contest organizers are offering $1,000 to the first-place winner, provided he or she reaches the mark of 20 hot dogs.

Should the winner fail to eat 20, the prize is $200. However, ShuBrew owner Zachary Schumaker, whose Zelienople establishment sponsors the event, is confident that the full cash prize will be awarded.

The first-place winner also will receive a wrestling-style championship belt, as winner Kyle Jamison captured last year.

This year, the increased prize has attracted a pair of experienced competitive eaters — Sean Yeager, 31, of Pittsburgh, who last month downed 13.5 SmashMouth Burgers in a Rehoboth Beach, Del., contest, and Andrew Puhl, 34, of West Decatur, Clearfield County, who posts videos of his gastronomic exploits online. Those have included the contents of emergency food supply buckets and massive pizzas and burgers.

The hot dog eating contest field contrasts with those from previous years, which Shumaker said consisted of “a lot of locals, a lot of our customers, a couple of people who might do some local or regional competitions … never anyone who was an actual competitive eater of elite status.”

The number of contestants will remain capped at 10 this year because of the size of the stage on which the competition is held.

“Because we do it on a stage, we have to make sure there’s enough room for everybody,” Shumaker said. “But we usually get a few hundred people to show up to actually watch it.”

Even the spectators can indulge, as hot dogs will be shot periodically into the crowd with cannons.

During the contest, hot dog eaters will be allowed to wash down the dogs and buns with a beverage of their choice. While most choose water, others choose lemonade, Gatorade, and in the past, at least one has chosen orange juice.

“A lot of (competitors) will soak the hot dog buns in the drink to break down the buns, and then they put it in their mouth so that it goes down easier,” Shumaker said.

The Nathan’s wieners won’t be the only “hot dogs” in Zelienople on Saturday, the last day of Horse Trading Days: There will be the third annual Dog Show on the main stage at 10 a.m. Saturday, four hours before the hot dog eating contest start.

Nick Mastrian, of Cranberry Township, competes during the Horse Trading Days’ ShuBrew Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2022. Mastrian won second place after winning a tie breaker for the spot. Butler Eagle File Photo

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