Their brows dripping with sweat in the glare of the evening sun, 11 men stood on stage, staring down at dozens of foot-long corn dogs, ready to begin chowing down as soon as the bell rang and kicked off the eighth annual Corndog Classic at the Fourth on the Brazos.
The people lounging on the lawn at Touchdown Alley at Baylor University’s McLane Stadium had flocked to the gate separating the stage from the crowd, prepared to cheer on the corn dog-eating contestants.
The announcer told the 11 participants they had three minutes to eat as many corn dogs as possible. They could use the water provided to drink or dunk their corn dogs in before eating them. No regurgitation allowed.
The prize: an oversized Styrofoam corn dog bedazzled with red, white and blue sparkles and streamers and tickets to Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
Just before the bell clanged, contestant Russell Cooper made the sign of the cross.
Then they were off, some just eating as fast as possible, while others nibbled the corn dog off around the stick. Dustin Glockzin dunked his corn dogs in a cup of water before shoving them in his mouth. Glockzin won the contest in 2017, eating 4 ½ corn dogs in three minutes.
As the three minutes wore on, some contestants began rubbing their bellies or shaking their heads. Some simply grimaced with each bite and swallow.
Finally, the last 10 seconds arrived, and the crowd counted down together in unison, as the contestants tried to stuff more corn dogs into their mouths.
But at the end of the three minutes, it was clear who had won. Holding six sticks in one hand and wearing a grin on his face, Carl Bender was announced the winner of the eighth annual Corndog Classic.
As the contestants exited the stage, others clapped Bender on the back and congratulated him. Others inquired about his strategy. They marveled at how he ate six corn dogs in three minutes. Aldo Jefferson managed to eat three dogs, while James Brotherton choked down 4½.
Bender said this was his first time competing in the contest, and his strategy was to chew as little as necessary before swallowing.
“I’ve always eaten fast though,” the 26-year-old Washington state native said.
A doctoral student studying nutrition and exercise at Baylor University, Bender said he thinks the fact that he works out a lot and eats a lot helped him win the contest. The irony of his studies is not lost on him, he said.
Bender entered the contest Thursday, deciding to participate so he could receive a free dinner.
“I feel pretty good,” he said afterward, “but I feel like I could eat more. I don’t want to eat that fast though.”