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Cloudy skies didn’t dampen any appetites Thursday afternoon during the 5th annual coney dog eating challenge at American Coney Island in downtown Detroit.

The chili, onions and mustard were flying as less than a dozen competitors bellied up to a table outside the restaurant in an attempt to unseat last year’s winner Matt Holowicki of Plymouth.

Holowicki smashed the competition and his 2014 record — 17 3/4 coneys — by scarfing down 19 1/2 dogs in 10 minutes.

Holowicki, who said he trained for this event by “mentally preparing” not only won the coney eating challenge last year, but he’s also been crowned king of pierogi- and paczki-eating contests throughout Metro Detroit. (He’s eaten upward of 49 pierogi and 23 paczki.)

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American Coney Island 5th annual Coney Eating Challenge charity event for Detroit Police and Detroit Firemen's Benevolent Fund. Steve Perez

Some of the competitors followed Holowicki’s lead by using two hands and sipping water. Others tried to keep pace by holding one dog in each hand.

As Holowicki was getting his champion belt from American Coney Island owner Grace Keros, celebrity judge Les Gold from reality show “Hardcore Pawn” joked with him and offered to buy the belt for cash. Other celebrity judges include Gold’s son Seth Gold and former Detroit Piston Rick Mahorn.

Before the civilian contest, American Coney Island pit the Detroit Police Department and the Detroit Fire Department against each other in a battle for charity and bragging rights.

The DPD team took the glory this year, putting away 24 coney dogs in 10 minutes while Detroit Fire gobbled up 18.

Lt. Arnie Nowicki cheered on his fellow firemen and women and praised American Coney Island owners Grace Keros and Chris Sotiropoulos for finding a fun way to raise funds for charity.

“What I’d like to do is challenge everybody else — even if it’s cutting the lawn for a senior citizen next door — find a way to do some good.”

Proceeds from the registration fees and the day’s sales benefit the Detroit Police Fund and the Detroit Firemen’s Benevolent Fund.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/melodybaetens

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