…..and all I got was a lousy T-shirt and not one shot of the reigning chomping champs Joey Chestnut and Sonya Thomas. What I did manage to get were some photos of the happy and excited crowds, Uncle Sam and two guys on a trampoline!
Why you say? Because being an amateur photographer without a press pass and therefore no admittance to the media area right in front of the stage (sigh) and measuring only 5′ 2″, I was left using my imagination and stealth to capture images at street level. I came all the way out to Coney Island from Queens and I was damned if I left without at least a few interesting shots of this momentous day on the memory card.
First off, I will admit I got to Coney Island a little too late. The contest starts at 12:00 but the pre-show events begin a few hours earlier. I exited the N train at 9:30am and realized right away that I should have arrived at 6:30am! The pounding throbbing sounds of the band were already blasting the surrounding neighborhood. The crowds had already staked out their spots around the staging area and were cemented in place and nothing short of an earthquake would move them. Nathan’s was already selling hot dogs and french fries which people were very happily consuming for their breakfast.
The day was grey overcast with blinding glare, the humidity stifling and my heart started to sink as I was trying to figure out a good spot to stand. I saw a sign that said media with an arrow pointing behind the staging area. I squeezed and pushed myself through a wad of hot sweating bodies to get as close to the barriers separating the media area and the stage. My hope was to make my way along the side and capture at least a sideways view of the contestants hoovering down hot dogs and guzzling water. But, no dice. I then decided to move back over to the other side of the stage (where I got my T-shirt) to get a shot of the band and the trophies on display.
After five minutes of squeezing through more packed bodies I managed to pop out of the crowd and landed back on the corner of Stillwell & Surf Avenues. In the interim a trampoline was erected facing the side of the stage and the front of Nathans. This provided some opportunity for a few shots of high-flying acrobatic images before getting to the side of the stage in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the contestants.
As I said before I’m short and the stage was high and my view….completely blocked. I spent a frustrating half hour standing right next to three huge speakers with the sound turned up to the same levels as a nuclear explosion. The security guy would not let me get beyond the barriers no matter how much whining and pleading I did. Obviously, it was time to move on and devote my photographic talents to more shots of the trampoline guys and the excited spectators.
One other annoying thing besides not being able to get shots of the contestants anywhere from the side lines is that these competitive eaters are all svelte! What’s with that? They eat 40 to 60 hot dogs in one sitting either during a competition or while in “training” and they are thin!? If I ate that many hot dogs at a clip on a regular basis you’d have to grease my sides to get me through the door. Do they purge? Do they run a marathon a day? What?
I hope you all had a great Fourth of July and enjoy the few shots I added below for your viewing pleasure.
Stay in Focus,