Labor Day Hot dog Eating Contest in Mills
By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily
MILLS — On a hot Labor Day afternoon, crowds gathered at Riverfront Park, on a bend of the Platte River. Some were there for food trucks, cold beer and a car show. But most were there to witness a ritual of Labor Day, a hot dog eating contest.
Last year saw the first annual “Wyoming Hot Dog Eating Championship,” organized by food truck owner Ticker Lock. The event’s first champions were Billy Floyd of Casper and Stephanie Wu of Carson City, Nevada. Floyd ate an amazing 13 wieners and buns while Wu ate 11 to win the men’s and women’s competition and set the mark to beat for the second installment of the holiday classic.
Winners were competing for custom made belts, but mostly for bragging rights.
Before the competition would begin, there was a car show put on by “Pop In The Shop.” a Christian mentoring group that teaches fatherless boys age 7 to 17 about classic car restoration in the group’s shop on Yellowstone Highway in Casper. The show attracted nearly 20, hotrods, rat-rods and fully restored vehicles.
The contest itself began at 6 p.m., as contestants gathered around tables, bins loaded with hotdogs and buns. The rules were simple — eat as many wieners and buns in 11 minutes as possible. As the countdown to b begin reached zero, the food fight for the belts raged.
The seven men and two women competing gobbled their way to hot dog immortality. There were different strategies at play. There was the “grab and squish,” trying to make the bun and wiener as compact and easy to consume as possible. Others went for the multi-bite attack, taking a series of rapid bites before briefly chewing and swallowing.
The most popular method was the “dunk and down,” Bottles of water on the tables were used to soak the buns and make them less bulky both in the mouth and more importantly, in the stomach.
While the frankfurter fighters did their best, two men emerged as the ones to beat — reigning champion Billy Floyd and contender Johnny Haase. When the countdown ran out, Floyd had consumed 11 wieners but it was unclear how many Haase ate, which resulted in a protest being lodged.
There was only one way to settle the matter — a sudden death eat-off. One minute was put back on the clock as the two went head-to-head to see who could eat the most. Floyd, a slim man, did his best and ate one complete bun and wiener, but Haase had room for two to take the title.
On the women’s side, the battle was less dramatic but nonetheless impressive, with Kiera Grogan of Orange County, New York, taking home the belt with a total of six hot dogs, edging out her competition.