How to Organize a Hot Dog Eating Contest

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Hot dog eating contests can be used to celebrate all sorts of holidays like Independence Day, Flag Day and Labor Day. They can also make great fundraisers for all sorts of different non-profit organizations.

  • Set a budget. Think about the number of participants and spectators. Compare the cost of the hot dogs and hot dog buns. These can be purchased at discount wholesale clubs. If you are planning a “pot luck contest,” ask friends and family to pitch in. Don’t forget to budget for decorations, cleaning supplies, prizes and the like. If you are renting a location, make sure you know all the costs and those costs are in writing. Remember to buy food and drinks for the spectators as well.

  • Decide on your location. This can be your backyard, a local park or a building you rent. Make sure there is enough room for everyone. Have a back-up plan if you are having it outside; Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. Remember to have enough parking and restroom facilities for everyone in attendance. Do not forget your guests that have special needs, and try to make it as easy for them as possible.

  • Decide on the number of guests you will be having. That will depend on your location. If you are organizing the hot dog eating contest to be a fundraiser, selling tickets in advance is an excellent way to know the number of those attending. Do not sell more tickets than your location (and local laws) will allow.

  • Remember to decorate. The decorations will be decided by the reason you are having the hot dog eating contest. If it is to celebrate a holiday, use decorations for that are suitable for a party held in honor of that holiday. If it is for a fundraiser, decorate with a specific area with information about the cause you are supporting. Make sure the decorations do not get in the way of those competing. The decorations on the competitors' table should be limited. Don’t forget that your guests will want to see the competition, so do not have any decorations that will obstruct their view.

  • Decide on the rules in advance. Make sure the competitors understand these rules before the competition starts. Let the spectators in on these rules as well. Decide if you will have a time limit. You can instead set a specific number of hot dogs that must be eaten. Whoever eats them the fastest wins. This will help keep your food costs down. You can even have different rules for different age groups competing. Keep safety first - especially when children are involved.

  • Designate specific people to do certain jobs during the contest. There should be one person assigned to each contestant to count the number of hot dogs they eat. Designate someone to give the contestants more hot dogs, if they are needed. One “supplier” to every two or three contestants should be sufficient. Of course, have a “bucket person” assigned to no more than three contestants in case of vomiting. Be sure to have at least one person trained in CPR and first aid, increase of choking or any other medical problems. This person will have to be given the authority to stop the contestant or the contest if he deems it necessary for safety reasons. Also, assign people on hand who will take photos or tape the contest.

  • Try to be prepared for everything and anything. You can’t foresee every possible problem, but think like an alarmist to be sure your bases are covered. If the unthinkable happens, remain calm and collected. Handle problems quickly and quietly so your guests do not panic. Even if you think the worst has happened, chances are it isn’t the absolute worst. It may become a comical conversation-starter some day.

Tips & Warnings

  • When choosing the size of the table, plan on allowing each contestant the room that would normally be afforded to at least two people.
  • Special red bags marked medical or human waste (depending on local codes) can be obtained at local medical supply stores.
  • Make copies of the photos and the videotape. Someone may want to have copies. If the hot dog eating contest is a fundraiser, you may be able to sell them or post them on the organization’s website, with permission of those in the photos and tape.
  • Know all the local codes regarding the maximum number of people you can have at that location.
  • Safety first! It isn’t any fun if someone gets hurt.
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