Saturday, March 23, 2013

Crazy for Coney Island

Wandering around the Brighton Beach area of Coney Island the day before Luna Park (the amusement park) opens for the season, and expecting it to be the last quiet day on the beach, I stumble upon Nathan's Hot Dogs annual hot dog eating preliminaries competition.  The contest takes place on the boardwalk for the first time ever, because the main restaurant is still closed from the hurricane damages.

I'm greeted with a front row seat among the many spectators, and I tuck in and watch eight men and one woman compete, shoving hot dogs and buns one after another in to their mouths.  Each has a unique method that works for them. Some dip the meat in to juice or milk or water.  One man seems to swallow the hotdogs whole, while the others chew, chew, and chew some more.

Bob, a big man from Pennsylvania, dunks his hot dogs in to a glass of pink punch, staining his hands, and this strategy proves to be a winner, as he retains his championship title, devouring 36 hot dogs in the allotted ten minutes.

Bloated, full and uncomfortable, a few of the competitors smile weakly and wave at the crowd, as they ever so slowly and carefully take their filled bellies home. Others, the more season veterans, stay and chat with fans and the media. I approach Bob, today's winner, along with Larell the only woman competing today and thereby the winning lady, and Matt, a first-time competitor, and they all enthusiastically agree to share their stories on how they came to be in the competition.  I'll talk with them later this week.  Stay tuned for a 1000 Hot Dogs feature.

The smell of hotdogs hangs heavy in the air, and I move on down the boardwalk, delighted to discover that Luna Park is open for access to the smaller rides.  I spend the sunny afternoon photographing the park and the handful of families, kids and workers making last minute adjustments.   

Tomorrow, when the park officially opens, the larger rides, including the Wonder Wheel (ferris wheel) and the Cyclone (rollercoaster) will open, drawing larger crowds.  I plan to be back early to photograph and participate in the excitement of opening day.

I'm not a big fan of actually going on the larger rides like the Cyclone, I much prefer to photograph other people enjoying them.  But, of the four times that I've been to New York City, this is the first time that Luna Park will be open while I'm here, so... I'm going to go for it - it being the Cyclone.

Just 145 days ago, this entire area was under six feet of water... crazy!

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