There’s nothing more American than eating hot dogs on the Fourth of July – except for maybe making it into a competition to see who can eat the most hot dogs in a 10 minute time span. For The Locker Room, this tradition saw its 14th iteration in the Mid-Ohio Valley this holiday. The rules are simple – contestants have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs as possible and then they must keep it down for one additional minute. 

“When I bought the Locker Room Sports Bar back in 2006, I was looking to host events and do things that the Mid-Ohio Valley had never seen. What better way than a traditional 4th of July hot dog eating championship? It’s always a lot of fun and we have been able to help raise money for good causes through it. We started this event 14 years ago as a way to provide some entertainment to the Mid-Ohio Valley and celebrate our nation’s independence,” The Locker Room owner Ike Eastwood said. 

For Eastwood, the contest is a great way to bring the community together and continue his business’ focus on giving back whenever possible. The Locker Room donates and participates in many area causes including being strong supporters of The Gospel Food Pantry and sponsoring a local softball team. He believes that the hot dog eating contest is a great way to really bridge the gap between different people in the community.

“People from all walks of life are welcomed and have competed. Anyone and everyone is welcome. Over the years we’ve done dance battles, rap battles, karaoke, concerts and many other events. All of these things help bring together the community, but the one thing that’s universal is the love for hotdogs,” Eastwood said.

Well, almost. 

Second place finisher Reed Byers, who would rather eat just about anything else than a hot dog, was slated to compete to set a Guinness World Record on July 9 for most jumping jacks in a 24 hour period with a matching fundraising goal of $24,000. However, an injury caused him to postpone the event leading him to sign up for this competition and turn it into a fundraising challenge instead. 

“As a human, I deserve to treat myself better than that. I didn’t puke, thankfully, but I felt like I’d been poisoned,” Byers said. “The fundraising began after I realized I committed to an event without much purpose beyond eating hotdogs. With the fundraiser I was working on being postponed, it seemed like a natural fit.”

Despite his distaste for the American classic, he persevered in good humor and completed the challenge downing 10 hot dogs and raising over $1,200 for How to Save a Life – a GiveMore Connections program that aims to provide community services in youth development, health & fitness, and mental health support.

“There is such a tremendous wealth within our community here in the Mid-Ohio Valley – I think it’s vital we focus on that – especially in our youth and cultivate a generation of stewards, who take pride in building a healthy community. Connecting people with positive events and causes is just one piece of that. It provides us a sense of purpose, belonging, and allows us to invest in our future – together,” Byers said.

People like helping, and when you’re able to make the connection so people can – that’s what building community is about.

This year’s winner, Jimbo Slice, is the four-time reigning champion of the contest and enjoys participating because he gets to engage with the area in a non-conventional and entertaining manner. Slice was able to eat 16 hot dogs with time to spare. 

“It’s a great time to interact with people in the community and it’s always good to help and give back to the community whenever possible. This is just one of the ways that can happen” Slice said. 

The event involves many pieces of the community, possibly more this year, as Byers sourced sponsorships and community donations to help him complete his fundraising goal of $1,000. As part of the competition, he sought pledge donations per hot dog eaten as well as flat donations from supporters. For the event, each dog consumed was worth $50. 

“I reached out to Piggly Wiggly because I was told they have the best sauce in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Without hesitation Jim Oppe agreed to donate the product and to provide me with a shirt to wear during the competition. The Root Beer Shack could not have been more excited to donate a dozen of their premium hot dogs to help me get some practice in before the event,” Byers said. “People like helping, and when you’re able to make the connection so people can – that’s what building community is about.”

Eastwood plans to continue hosting the competition every year and using his business to promote good in the community. 

“In future years we would love to see the event grow in both competitors and attendance. Fourteen years have gone by since the first one and we couldn’t have dreamed it would have become as big as it has – one day maybe ESPN will be covering Marietta,” Eastwood said.