No food quite says “summer” like the humble hot dog. Perhaps that’s why July is National Hot Dog Month!

Although no one knows for sure how hot dogs came to be such a popular symbol of summer, we can make a good guess at how they became related to Fourth of July celebrations. If you believe a popular New York legend, four immigrants had a hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand on Coney Island on July 4, 1916.

The hot dog eating contest was supposed to settle an argument about which of the immigrants was the most patriotic. Since 1916, Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island has been the site of a hot dog eating contest nearly every year on July 4.

Today, the annual Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest is the world’s most famous hot dog eating contest. It has also become an Independence Day tradition for many. Last year, more than 40,000 people came to Coney Island to watch the contest, which was also broadcast live on ESPN!

During the contest, 20 people compete to see who can eat the most hot dogs (with buns!) in just 10 minutes. The wiener… oops, we mean winner — in addition to bragging rights and maybe indigestion — gets to wear a special jeweled mustard-yellow belt.

Joey Chestnut of San Jose, California, holds the world record for hot dog eating. On July 4, 2009, he ate 68 hot dogs (and buns!) in 10 minutes. He will seek his fifth straight title in this year’s contest.

Could you eat 68 hot dogs in just 10 minutes? That’s an incredible world record. What’s even more incredible is how many hot dogs Americans eat year-round.

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans eat more than 20 billion hot dogs every year. More than 155 million hot dogs will be eaten during the Fourth of July weekend alone!

Do you do your part? The Council estimates each American eats 60 hot dogs every year on average.

What is your favorite hot dog add-on? For adults, the choice is mustard, while kids tend to prefer ketchup.

If you’re wondering exactly how the name “hot dog” came about, people believe sports cartoonist Tad Dorgan came up with the name. At a 1901 baseball game, a new food — hot dachshund sausages in buns — were being sold.

Dorgan heard people yelling, “Get your dachshund sausages while they’re hot!” He drew a cartoon of the scene. Because he wasn’t sure how to spell “dachshund,” he just called them “hot dogs.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

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