Whether it’s grilling out, watching fireworks, playing ball, or drinking oneself stupid, there are many tried-and-true ways to celebrate the birth of our fine nation. Of course, the quintessential patriot experience isn’t complete without stuffing one’s face, so what’s Independence Day without a good ol’ fashioned eating contest?
For the third year in a row, the Depot Tavern of First Avenue & 7th Street Entry fame held its star-studded and star-spangled Diamond Dog Eating Contest, presented by City Pages and MPLS.TV, and based on the contestant line-up we had this time around, the spectators were in for quite the treat (and really, on a 97 degree afternoon, you would stay in an air conditioned restaurant to watch six dudes pig out, too).
The rules were simple: six contestants would have ten minutes to down as many of the Depot’s signature Diamond Dogs– deep-fried 1/4 pound all-beef hot dogs wrapped with pepper bacon and served on a pretzel bun– that they possibly can. Entrants could be disqualified if they sprang for the bathroom or threw up during the contest. The usage of beverages was allowed. And boy, were those stakes high! The first-place winner would claim Platinum membership at First Avenue, as well as ten pairs of First Ave tickets and a $50 Depot gift card; second place would get Gold membership, five pairs of tix, and a $25 gift card; and third place would earn Gold membership, three pairs of tix, as well as $25 gift card goodness.
On top of that, if the first place winner could break last year’s record of ten Diamond Dogs, they would get an extra prize of $500! Clearly, there was no pressure (figurative or gastrointestinal).
With MPLS.TV’s own Bobby Kahn serving as Master of Ceremonies, the stage was set. The brave contestants ready to face their Diamond Dog Destinies were Dan Allen, Jordan Jochum, Jesse Steinkopf, Sam Spadino, and last year’s reigning champion, Eric “Silo” Dahl. Oh yeah, and me, Bacon, serving as MPLS.TV’s mystery contestant. With our judges standing at attention and the dogs at the ready, the game was afoot!
Full disclosure: I have never competed in an eating contest before, let alone a hot dog eating contest, so I honestly had no idea what to expect. You might see me and my fabled husky frame and think, “Damn, that guy must know how to put away quite a few hot dogs,” but here I was a rank amateur compared to my opponents. A microsecond after the timer started running, Dahl– a 21-year-old Delano native who, when he’s not going to college in Wisconsin, has racked up eating contests wins ranging from BBQ to eggnog– tore into his plate of dogs like a madman, never letting up and never showing any sign of fatigue.
Luckily, I made some progress on my share of dogs, though by #4, I was clearly feeling the obvious effects of having four goddamn quarter-pound sausages weighing down my stomach. But like a champ and a true American, I didn’t give up, and if I was gonna spew, then by God, it wasn’t gonna be this day.
But by the end of the ten minutes, my best wasn’t good enough, because for the second year in a row, Dahl claimed the victory with TWELVE Diamond Dogs, breaking his previous record of ten. Jochum followed in second place with six dogs; Allen defeated me for third place in a tiebreaker with five dogs and two bites; I ended up with a fourth-place haul of five whole dogs; and Spadino and Steinkopf tied for fifth with two dogs each.
Like the good sport that I was, I congratulated the two-time champ and asked how, once again, the Silo remained untoppled.
“You know, these were really tough,” said Dahl. “That bacon just made it extra hard, but it’s really just about constantly pushing. If you think you’re full, if you’re gonna stop, then it’s all over.”
And how was Dahl feeling after downing a dozen dastardly Depot Diamond Dogs?
“I’m pretty full, but I’m not bad,” Dahl replied nonchalantly, while I on the other hand felt like I had just sentenced my digestive tract to a grisly death.
So can we expect the Silo for the hat trick next year?
“If I’m around, I’m definitely gonna try.”
And that kind of persistence, my friends, is what makes this country great.