Eating champion Joey Chestnut to gobble for top prize at Elk Grove pumpkin festival

Joey Chestnut competes in Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4, 2016, in New York.
Joey Chestnut competes in Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4, 2016, in New York. The Associated Press

Joey Chestnut, the master of overeating of all types of foods, will compete at the World Pumpkin Pie Eating Championship on Sunday in Elk Grove.

The championship, eight minutes of pie-eating mayhem, is each year preceded by introductions of contestants by a master of ceremonies who builds excitement as competitors appear onstage to their own special music.

“He builds the excitement for quite a while,” said pumpkin festival spokeswoman Jenna Brinkman. “The competition then flies by. It’s only eight minutes when they start eating.”

Chestnut, 32, of San Jose, is perhaps best known for his hurried mass consumption of hot dogs. The famed eater regained his title this summer at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York.

He holds the world record of 73 Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and buns consumed in 10 minutes. But he does not limit his eating talents to hot dogs, although they seem to get the most attention every year.

He has also competed for prize money in competitions where he ate hard-boiled eggs, tacos, hot wings, poutine, shrimp cocktail and Twinkies. He is said to have consumed 121 Twinkies in 6 minutes.

At the 2014 World Pumpkin Pie Eating Championship, Matt Stonie, a frequent eating opponent of Chestnut, consumed 20 pounds, 13 ounces of pumpkin pie in eight minutes. Last year, Chestnut came within a couple pounds of that record.

This Sunday, Chestnut will try to smash the record when competing against top eaters, although Stonie will be a no-show. The championship, with a top prize of $2,500, begins at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Elk Grove Regional Park, 9950 Elk Grove-Florin Road.

The pie-eating championship is preceded by a boat race in which skippers paddle hollowed-out gigantic pumpkins.

The two-day Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival, which includes the pie-eating competition, is organized by the Cosumnes Community Services District. Last year, the festival attracted about 45,000 people.

Also slated for the festival is a weigh-off of giant pumpkins. Growers will be hefting huge pumpkins with a forklift onto a scale to see who has grown the biggest pumpkin.

The world record is held by Beni Meier, whose big pumpkin weighed 2,323 pounds when placed on a scale at the European championships in Germany.

The giant pumpkin competition begins at 9 a.m. Saturday. The top prize is $7 per pound.

Other attractions scheduled are a pumpkin recipe contest, scarecrow-making contest, live entertainment and pumpkin food. Admission is free, but parking is $10.

The Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin festival is an annual event featuring gourds weighing more than 1,500 pounds.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews

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