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 Firefighters top police in eating contest for charity 

 By Bob Sofaly 

It was epic! It was colossal! It was National Hot Dog Day! 

To commemorate the event Wednesday, July 21, and raise money for their favorite charities, the titans from the City of Beaufort Police Department and the Beaufort/Port Royal Fire Department squared off to see who could eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes at J. Lee’s Coney Island. 

Doc and Alex Johnson, owners of the franchise, decided they wanted to do something to celebrate National Hot Dog Day and thought what better way than have Beaufort’s first responders compete in a hot dog eating contest and raise money for charity. 

Beaufort/Port Royal firefighters Clint Holmes, left, and Matthew Callegari celebrate after winning the inaugural National Hot Dog Day eating contest Wednesday, July 21, at J. Lee’s Coney Island.

So teams were formed and “regulation” competition hot dogs, eight dogs per pound, were obtained and prepared. 

“I’m expecting to see 20-25 dogs each consumed today. I have 160 dogs ready to go,” Doc Johnson said.

The world record was broken on July 4 this year by Joey Chestnut who ate an impossible 76 dogs in 10 minutes.

Enter the competitors.

Officers Sean Flomer and Seth Jones of the Beaufort Police Department, in their crisp navy blue uniforms, sat together at one end of the a table, calm and cool. Neither men had done any competitive eating before. Their goal for the day was to embarrass the firefighters.

The firefighters in turn presented the policemen with a box of donuts.

Firefighters Mathew Callegari and Clint Holmes stepped in wearing “bunker” gear with blue suspenders and t-shirts.

“I’ve never done anything like this”, Callegari said. “We got this.”

“We’re here,” Holmes said. “We’re gonna win!”

All four competitors seem to hit the proverbial “brick wall” at the six and-a-half minute mark and noticeably slow down their pace of hot dog consumption during the inaugural hot dog eating contest. Photos by Bob Sofaly.

Enter the hot dogs.

Four large trays of hot dogs, one tray for each competitor, were place in front of them. Each looked warily at what they were about to eat and reality began to set in.

The signal to begin was given and the shoveling began.

Each team seemed to inhale to first half dozen dogs while being loudly cheered by supporters.

At six and half minutes things began slowing down and the smiles had long since left their faces.

Hot dog buns were soaked in water to make them go down better, and the franks were eaten separately.

The firefighters stood during the competition which seems to have given them the edge.

When the eating was done, the firefighters raised their arms in victory. They had taken down Beaufort’s finest and were the inaugural National Hot Dog Day champions of Beaufort.

The final tally: Firefighters 18, Policemen 10.

The champions, Callegari and Holmes, said MUSC Burned Children’s Fund would receive the prize money raised, matched by J. Lee’s Coney Island.

Holmes who unofficially downed the most dogs said, “rule of thumb in the fire service is never eat more than your mask can hold. I think I broke that rule today.”

Top photo:  City of Beaufort police officers Sean Flomer, left, and Seth Jones sit during the competition while firefighters Clint Holmes and Matthew Callegari stand during the inaugural hot dog eating contest Wednesday, July 21, at J. Lee’s Coney Island. Photos by Bob Sofaly. 

Bob Sofaly has been photographing people and what they do in Beaufort for 41 years – since Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. He can be reached at bobsofaly@gmail.com.

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