Dip. Squirt. Chomp.
That’s all there was to be heard after the start of the Highlands Ranch hot dog-eating contest on July 4 at Town Center North, minus the relentless roaring of the crowd shouting “Eat, eat, eat!”
With 24 competitors, the heat was on. Literally, it was above 90 degrees on the scorching pavement while hot dogs from Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs were gorged, stuffed and slurped.
Bottles of water weren’t enough to soften the buns.
“Gimmie,” one competitor said while frantically pointing to a bottle of mustard. It’s supposed to help add flavor, he said.
After the two-minute mark, things were getting serious. Hands flew up for more and more rounds of “showboats.”
“I’m going to throw up,” Tammy “Tamminator” Stromberg said after about four frankfurters.
Coaches nicknamed “Bunnettes” lined the other side of the table with buckets, water and paper plates full of three more hot dogs waiting to be consumed.
“You can do it,” they cheered as they bounced up and down.
Josh “The Dog Destroyer- J-Chill” Childs shook his head back and forth, gnawing on soggy bread dripping with water.
“No, no, no, no,” he said in between franks. As last year’s winner, he was feeling pressured after his previous record of 11 dogs. Chugging water like he’d been deprived for days, he threw in the towel at eight wieners.
The five-minute mark was drawing near, and one man wearing all red, white and blue crammed his cheeks full of meat and bun. Whether from tears or sweat, his face was wet, and his breathing seemed exhausted.
“You look like a chipmunk,” one “Bunnette” said. And he lost it. Bits of bun spewed out as he chuckled.
Others wore sunglasses to avoid the contagious laughter going on down the table.
With the sound of the emcee chiming in over the loud speaker, it was over — finally.
“We have a three-way tie,” was the worst news a few competitors could have gotten.
Just when they thought they were done, it was time for an “eat-off.”
After another grueling run of it, Mark “Without Name” Witkiewicz claimed the contest by scarfing down 13 hot dogs with no regrets. He set a contest record and can only hope that whoever steps up to the challenge next year won’t come hungry enough.