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Denver's hot dog champ chomp

Eating 20 hot dogs (with buns) in under 12 minutes used to be such a feat that competitive eaters coined the phrase "doing the deuce" for the achievement. But that was before winning totals in the annual July 4th Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Contest rocketed past 30, shot into the 50s, then settled in the 60s. This unnerved organizers enough to shorten the competition by two minutes last year, but the winning total by Joey Chestnut -- 59 hot dogs and buns (plus 5 more in a forced overtime) -- is still something to be marveled at.

This Saturday, Denver will get its chance to send one of our own to the big table at Coney Island on the 4th. For the first time, our fair city is hosting a qualifier for the event, and our local eaters are flexing their esophagi in the hopes of landing a coveted spot in the competition. 

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Hopeful Marco "Mongo" Marquez (our cookie title holder from last year)  has his eye on the prize and is determined to walk away a champ this weekend. His totals have steadily crept up, but even with a boast-worthy 27 dogs, he lost last week's Kansas City qualifier. He's cautiously optimistic about his chances this weekend, saying, "I am not making any assumptions on Saturday's qualifier. I am -- and have been -- training as if a top 10 eater will be there."  No top 10 eaters are slated for this qualifier, but Marquez will no doubt be keeping an eye on spinach champ "Pretty Boy" Pete Davekos, the #20 ranked eater in the world, and the other local with some competitive eating history, Russ Witzke.

"I think that I am nervous and excited (more excited) about Saturday's qualifier," says Marquez. "It's in my own town, so that means that all my friends and family get to cheer me on.  I perform better when friends and family are present."

Want to cheer him on and see history in the making for yourself?  Here are the details:

What:   
Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier

Where: 
Sam's Club
7817 Park Meadows Drive
Lone Tree

When:  
Saturday, June 13

Time:    
The event starts at 11 a.m., with DJs and giveaways. At noon, there will be an amateur eating contest featuring pre-selected Sam's Club associates, community leaders (sorry, no names yet) and members. The qualifier will begin at 12:15 p.m.

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