Dogged pace need for victory in hot dog contest

Slow and steady key to contest success

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter



If you go

What: Clark County Fair.

Hours today: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.

Admission: Adults, $10; seniors 62 and older, $8; kids 7-12, $7; kids 6 and younger, free; parking, $6; C-Tran shuttle, $2 per person round trip from area park-and-ride lots; children 6 and younger ride free. $1 discount on admission with a bus fare stub.

Carnival: Opens at noon; unlimited rides today, $30.

Barns: Close early today.

99.5 The Wolf Grandstands:Monster Trucks, 2 and 7 p.m.

Other highlights Pie Eating Contest, 1 p.m.; Fair Court Coronation, 8 p.m.

Pets: Not permitted, except for personal service animals or those on exhibition or in competition.

More information: or call 360-397-6180.

Online: Download the mobile app for the Clark County Fair at:

Walking out of the food court area Saturday afternoon with friends, Allen Nelson heard Matt Ferris, the Clark County Fair's marketing manager, trying to round up more contestants for a hog-dog eating contest.

Nelson had just put down a fully-loaded baked potato, onion rings and a Coke.

Even so, Nelson, 60, of Troutdale, Ore., quickly succumbed to pressure from friends. He'd never entered an eating contest before, but he acknowledged his sizeable stomach where, he joked, 20 years' worth of food was stored. He signed a liability waiver -- "In case you choke and die on a hot dog, it's not my fault," as a member of the marketing staff had explained to a fellow fair employee who entered the contest -- and took a seat at the end of the table.

Like the eight other contestants, Nelson had eight hot dogs stacked on a plate and a bottle of water.

The rules are simple, explained Ferris, both to the contestants and a few dozen amused onlookers: The first person to finish all eight hot dogs wins.

"It doesn't matter how you eat the hot dogs," Ferris said. "Hot dogs first, buns later. Buns first, hot dogs later."

Unlike the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, where eating champs square off to see who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes (record-holder Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., has downed 68), there was no time limit Saturday.

Contestants ate at a steady pace, chewing and swallowing, chewing and swallowing, and only one contestant, an early favorite, gave up and walked away.

Ferris provided color commentary and egged on the crowd to cheer.

Unlike a few other contestants, Nelson didn't separate the dogs and the buns. He didn't lead until the end, and he raised his arms in victory.

He edged out Alex Porter, 18, of Ridgefield, who could stuff an impressive amount of food in his cheeks, and Chris Howsti, 17, of Portland. Porter and Howsti, half-brothers, also decided to enter the competition at the last minute along with their sister, Heather Howsti, who, as Ferris observed early, seemed only in it to eat the hog dogs.

Eight people had registered for the competition, but only two people showed up Saturday.

Along with a blue ribbon, Allen, a production specialist at a semiconductor plant, won $100 worth of gift certificates for Westfield Vancouver mall.

Allen was surprised he won the contest, which was held for the first time at the fair.

Ferris said it was added in response to complaints that fair contests traditionally have been only for children.

Allen said he and his friends come to the Clark County Fair every year. And, yes, even though he pounded eight hot dogs, he said he was feeling OK and the experience didn't turn him off hot dogs forever. He'll eat one again, he said, "but probably not here."

A pie-eating contest will be 1 p.m. today, the final day of the 10-day fair. Sponsored by Shari's, Ferris says the restaurant will bring marionberry, apple, peach and rhubarb. Contestants will have their choice.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or