Marshalltown man trying to qualify for International Hot Dog-Eating Contest

T-R PHOTO BY EMILY BARSKE Marshalltown resident Mark Williams poses with some of his trophies from eating contests he’s participated in. On Saturday, he’ll participate in the Nathan’s Famous Iowa qualifier at the Iowa State Fair. If he wins, he’ll move on to the Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest.

A Marshalltown man will try to qualify for the annual Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest.

Mark Williams will participate in the Iowa qualifier sponsored by Nathan’s Famous on Saturday at the Iowa State Fair. This is his second consecutive year returning to the qualifier, but this is the 120th eating contest he’s participated in.

Williams said he began doing eating contests in 2005 because he’s always been good at eating fast. He started competing in events hosted by Major League Eating, which sanctions the hot dog-eating contest, in 2008. Participants apply for many of the events and the organization notifies you if you are selected to participate.

At last year’s qualifier, Williams downed 17.5 hot dogs and took fourth place. He’s lost 15 pounds since then and is hoping that will help with his speed. His goal is to get 20 or more this year.

There isn’t necessarily a technique, he said, because each food is different and some foods, like corn on the cob, have debris. He most recently participated in a loose meat sandwich competition in Ottumwa.

Some competitive eaters will regularly practice, but Williams said he doesn’t want to put his body through that. The contests haven’t ruined his appetites for the food. When he eats hot dogs for dinner, he’ll typically eat eight to 16.

Williams has a full-time job at Lennox, but since the property was destroyed in the July 19 tornado, he’s been doing more with his part-time job with housing projects.

The qualifier is at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, E. University Ave & E. 30th St., Des Moines.

The top male and female finishers in the event will qualify for a seat at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island, Brooklyn, on July 4, 2019, where they will face reigning champions Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo.

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Contact Emily Barske at (641) 753-6611 or ebarske@timesrepublican.com