Growing up in Fort Thomas, the Fourth of July is synonymous with the parade from Highlands to Tower Park, the Firecracker 5000 and hopefully now a filled amphitheater concert schedule.
The streets are lined with little ones scooping up candy, tussling with their friends over being in the line of fire of a water balloon or Super Soaker and in election years, pasting political stickers all over their parents' backs.
With our annual family reunions being held on Independence Day in Tennessee, I have only been able to attend a typical "Fort Thomas Fourth" a handful of times. Luckily for me, our family has hosted the reunion at our house in Fort Thomas 2 of the last three years. And coincidentally, over the last three years, the Olde Fort Pub has added to the lively lineup with their annual Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Never being one to turn down a challenge, I have been a party to two such contests. Two years ago, downing 10 hotdogs in 12 minutes - good for third place. And last year, 12 hotdogs in 10 minutes - again a third place finish.
Gross, I know.
I've retired from this ridiculous endeavor. And it's not like, a Brett Favre retirement. I'm done this time. Because I'm done, I don't mind giving you the blueprint for success should you choose to accept this mission.
Here are 10 things I learned on how to 1) not make yourself look like a complete joke (if that's possible) - and 2) give a go at winning the prestigious Olde Fort Pub Hot Dog Eating Crown (if there is one).
1) Do not under any circumstances eat for at least 4 hours - and ideally 6-7 hours - before the contest. My family sabotaged me in this way by ordering the impossible to turn away Larosa's before my last contest. A huge mistake.
2) Try not to indulge in too many libations before said contest. I know, you're at the Pub, but have a little self control in this regard. Same idea as above.
3) Do not take it as serious as a real competitive eater. When you only get 3-4 dogs down, your friends will make fun of you for listening to an ipod during the contest, painting your face and eating lettuce to expand your stomach the night before.
4) Do employ a good spotter. Said spotter needs to know how many dogs you've eaten, how many the leader has downed and on point should you need another hot dog tray. After I talked my wife into helping me out on this front, I definitely gained an edge over the prior year.
5) Eat fast.
6) Eating pattern should be as follows: 2 hot dogs (sans buns), 2 buns. Repeat.
7) Disgusting alert: Do dunk your hot dog buns in liquid to eat them faster. No more needs to be said. It's revolting, but just concentrate on the crowd cheering you on.
8) Probably the biggest thing I learned from one year to the next: bring your own liquid. You can bring anything (except alcohol). Just make sure it's ice cold. It'll give you a big edge when dunking the buns over those having to use bar water. I went with Fierce Grape Gatorade.
9) Do not use condiments. Obviously load them up at the barbecue before or after, but it'll just slow you down during the contest.
10) If you feel sick, for God's sake, stop. No one wants to see that.
Hope that helps. If you're an intelligent person and do not participate, go on up to the Olde Fort Pub. Aside from the parade (and this year the amphitheater events), the sheer entertainment factor cannot be topped. AMERICA!