Several hundred onlookers gathered as the competitors strolled to the stage. One by one, they were presented with American flag bandanas, and one by one, they wrapped them around their foreheads, summoned their patriotism and braced their stomachs.
Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” blasted through CocoWalk, and as the competitors were introduced, the crowd began to cheer the competitors.
“We do it better than Coney Island!” DJ Daz, the host of Cocowalk’s ninth annual hot dog eating contest, proclaimed from the stage.
Well, maybe not.
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Eight brave competitors began to consume. After five minutes of the 10-minute contest, only six eaters remained. And when it was over moments later, it was Victor “El Machine” Aldrich, 33, of Coral Gables who held up his fists in triumph after consuming the winning feast of 10 condiment-free hot dogs and buns.
“That was just pure joy,” he said. “I’ve been competing now for about a year, and I’ve had a rough season. Lost some of the tournaments that I’ve won in the past. And to get back on top of the mountain, oh, there’s no better feeling.”
Some of his fellow competitors, however, weren’t feeling so, uh, positive.
Two dropped out. One made it just until the eating ended to vomit on his shirt, hand and, eventually, into a red, white and blue garbage bag.
“Completely and utterly disgusting,” onlooker James Blonde called it.
“After seeing that, I don’t think I’m ever going to eat a hot dog again.”
But neither puke nor a full stomach deterred Aldrich, who outlasted the nearest competitor by one weiner. He did, however, miss out on the CocoWalk contest record of 17.
“It was some tight competition” he said. “I was glad that all the pros were up in New York so that I could maybe get the inside track to win today.”
Aldrich was given a CocoWalk-themed prize pack that included a skateboard, Starbucks gift bag, movie tickets and a one-month YouFit membership, among other rewards.
He was, however, bested nationally by Coney Island champ Joey Chestnut, who consumed a record 72 hot dogs earlier on Tuesday in the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at New York’s beloved beach to take home a mustard-colored belt.
CocoWalk’s hot dogs were provided by the Cinépolis movie theater, which donated four metal trays of franks. Leftovers were given out for free after the contest.
And while some fans were grossed out by the on-stage gluttony, others reveled in it.
“I loved my boy big blue up there,” bystander Mark Womack said of Aldrich, who wore a blue T-shirt. “He did his thing.”
Aldrich, meanwhile, addressed the crowd after his win.
“Go America!” he yelled, as a CocoWalk employee mopped up several feet away.
As he exited the area, someone yelled back at him.
“Still hungry?” they asked.
“Yeah, man,” Aldrich joked. “I’ve got macaroons for dessert.”