By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
About 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the World Slugburger Eating Championship in Corinth on Saturday, the thunder rumbled like a hungry stomach.
Then the rain poured down like a colossal belly-washer. But then the sky cleared, the sun came out and the professional eaters emerged to compete for the $3,000 purse, with $1,500 going to first place.
Assistants filled plates with piles of slugburgers, and the eaters took their seats as audience members got as close as they could to the action.
“There is no bigger stage in all of world sports,” said Major League Eating Announcer Sam Barclay as the eaters prepared to stuff slugburgers in their mouths for the next 10 minutes.
For the third year in a row, world No. 1 eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, 33, of San Jose, Calif. won the contest. He ate 35 slugburgers with pickle, mustard, onion and bun in 10 minutes. Last year, he ate 41 slugburgers, just two short of the world record of 43.
Chestnut said he may have eaten fewer this year due to a busy schedule.
“I’ve just been traveling around,” Chestnut said. “I was doing work for Hooters.”
Prior to the slugburger contest, he recently took part in a chicken wing eating contest in Las Vegas. And Chestnut won the Coney Island, N.Y. Fourth of July hotdog eating contest for the second year in a row this month.
He takes part in about 20 contests a year and said the slugburger eating competition is “definitely up there” among his favorites.
“This is fun,” he said of the Corinth contest. “The crowd is so sweet.”
Chestnut, who likes the taste of slugburgers, is gracious with his fans, always taking time to pose for a picture with them at the Main Street Corinth event.
He noted that he does not get a chance to practice eating slugburgers in California since they are not served there.
Phillip Bonds of Corinth said he loves slugburgers and was impressed with the way the top eaters consumed them.
“The two winners were really good; they had great techniques,” said Bonds. “You could tell they’re professionals.”
Kyle Cassandra of Orlando, Fla. was in town visiting his in-laws and witnessed the slugburger eating contest for the first time but has seen chili and hotdog eating contests.
“They’re all very fun,” Cassandra said. “These guys at Major League Eating do a great job, and they’re always really exciting and really funny.”
Grace Mansel, 14, of Corinth, said this was the first eating contest she has seen and said she can only eat about one slugburger in 10 minutes as opposed to Chestnut’s 35 on Saturday.
“It was pretty cool,” said Mansel, adding that she thinks it takes a lot of training and would like to see another eating contest.