Watching competitive eating is a bizarrely popular pastime enjoyed by many Americans, and for the brave few who actually participate in the sport, it can be a career. Around the country, people gather to watch others consume absurd amounts of food in record times, sometimes for a cash prize, and sometimes just because. Competitors' seemingly super-human abilities can cause often us to stare, if not feel a little queasy -- and even, in some extreme cases, potentially convince us to join in the action.
We've compiled and ranked a list of some of the strangest food competitions across the country. From the legendary Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest every Fourth of July to small local festivals, these contests gather a crowd.
Some competitions are about celebrating culinary traditions, like the Stuffed Quahog Eating Contest. Other contests are purely about quantity, like the Nugget Rib Cook-off World Rib Eating Championship. Lastly, some competitions, including the Testicle Festival in Montana, are essentially for the spectacle.
Some driven eaters like the famous Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, are known throughout the competitive eating world and hold multiple competition titles. Other participants range in background and motivation, but deserve no less attention for wanting to gorge themselves on as much food as possible.
To make our list of the craziest food competitions, events have to be held annually (including this year) and cannot be performed at a restaurant (sorry, monster burrito challenges). They were then ranked based on the popularity of the given food (assuming that most folks are more likely to eat hot dogs than they are testicles), the type and amount (if any) of reward, and whether or not they have any special rules.
Ready to gawk? Check out the slideshow to see the weirdest food competitions America has to offer!
-Meredith Whitman, The Daily Meal