They scarf down a lot more than they used to
According to Nathan’s Famous lore, the first Fourth of July hot-dog-eating contest took place the very year the hot dog stand on New York’s Coney Island opened in 1916. The story goes that it began when four immigrants were trying to determine who was the most patriotic by scarfing the dogs. But there’s no proof that there was an organized contest until the 1970s– as the press agent Mortimer Matz told the New York Times and Nathan’s then acknowledged. So our tally of how many hot dogs it took to win the contest begins in 1972, when Nathan’s started keeping records. That year’s winner, Jason Schechter, ate 14 wieners—a number that’s puny by today’s standards. Current record-holder Joey Chestnut won his title by noshing a whopping 69 in 2013.
For your awe-filled—or vomit-tinged—enjoyment, scroll down to see how many frankfurters have been consumed by the winners of every Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest between 1972 and 2014. As for why the thing is at Nathan’s at all, here’s how TIME explained the importance of Nathan Handwerker’s beachside joint in 1960:
The spiritual home of the U.S. hot dog —and the world’s largest hot dog stand—is Nathan‘s Famous on Brooklyn’s Coney Island. To Nathan‘s gaudy green and white stands each summer flock many of the millions of visitors to Coney, gobbling up more than 200,000 hot dogs (at 20¢ each) on a weekend. Summer or winter, Nathan‘s never closes. Its customers have braved blizzards just to reach a Nathan‘s hot dog: it is a regular last stop for many early-morning survivors of Manhattan’s cafe society.