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Hot dog eating contest

In this file photo, Brandon "Da Garbage Disposal" Clark finished with 27 hot dogs during the Heinkel's Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2017. This year, he won the contest by eating 33 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

It's best not to think too much about it, veteran hot dog eating competitor Brandon Clark, aka "Da Garbage Disposal," said after Saturday's Heinkel’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at Decatur Celebration.

He said he doesn’t listen to his brain or stomach when they tell him to stop eating — he just pushes through it and keeps 'em coming.

“It helps when it is a good hot dog,” said Clark, who claimed the win with 33 hot dogs consumed in 10 minutes. “If it was a worse hot dog, I wouldn’t get my numbers up that high.”

Drawing a sizable crowd of curious onlookers and fans of competitive eating, the event saw seven contestants eat as many hot dogs as possible in 10 minutes on a hot day. The competitors were Joseph Melton, Charlie St. Clair, Mason Montero, Matthew Laws, Jonathan Offermann, Kyle Hanner and Clark.

Clark won $500 and four tickets to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game for his work on this day Second place was Hanner with 18 hot dogs eaten, and Jonathan Offermann won third place with 12.

The goal for the competition is to finish the hot dog and the bun as many times as possible in 10 minutes. Reversal of fortune — losing your lunch, if you will — drops the contestant to a zero. Starting over isn't an option to be the hunt for a win. Each competitor had two judges watching and counting the hot dogs consumed.

Wes Heinkel and his family created the competition seven years ago. Heinkel’s Meat Packing Co. has been a Decatur business for more than 100 years.

“We had no idea what it would become,” said Heinkel, president and CEO. “The contest would never exist without contestants and the Decatur Celebration staff.”

Randy Scott of Decatur has attended the contest at previous Celebrations and said he finds himself intrigued by those who put their stomachs on the line for a prize.

“Anybody who can eat that much is interesting,” he said.

Scott said he likes hot dogs, but he struggles to think about what it would take to compete in a similar contest.

“It’s like your stomach has to stretch for something like this, but do you train for it or just come out and do it,” Scott said.

Laws tried his own approach to the competition, beginning by wearing a gorilla suit, but lost the mask before he ate his first hot dog. It didn't take long to think the constume decision was a little bananas.

“I made a huge mistake getting dressed 35 minutes before the event started,” he said. “Standing around in a hot gorilla suit kind of burnt me and wasted a lot of my energy. Getting up there I felt sick and light headed.”

Laws did learn from the experience: “Next year, I will just get up there as myself."

Clark said from his experience that he trains little beforehand, but he has won hot dog eating competitions in the past. His personal record, he said, was set July 4 in Jefferson City when he downed 35 hot dogs.

“I train at the events,” he said.

And while each hot dog contest is a little different, “I just surprise myself, and I do better," he said.



Everything you need to know about the 2018 Decatur Celebration

Heading downtown for Decatur Celebration this weekend? Here's everything you need to know:

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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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