Detroit police top dogs in coney eating contest

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Detroit — The crowd gathered around eager diners at the American Coney Island on Thursday evening repeatedly shouted a command that doubled as encouragement: “Eat!”

It was the sixth annual coney dog-eating challenge at the popular downtown eatery, and the contestants needed extra backing to consume the most onion-laden treats en route to bragging rights.

During the first part of the competition, 10 members from the Detroit police and fire departments faced each other indoors to down as many hot dogs as possible in five minutes in a bid to boost their charities.

“These guys are the first ones we call when we’re in trouble,” said American Coney Island owner Grace Keros. “They’re the heartbeat of the city.”

Wearing blue-and-white T-shirts declaring themselves “hot dog champs,” the five officers easily earned the title by scarfing 28 chili-smeared morsels versus the firefighters’ 22.

Matt Holowicki, of Plymouth, now a three time champion, participates in a coney dog eating contest where he ate twenty-one hot dogs in ten minutes, on Thursday, Sept. 1 2016 at the American Coney Island.

Police Lt. Michael Nied gobbled the most on his team: seven. His strategy was to sip water between bites then add ketchup and hot sauce to “lubricate” the drier portions (the buns).

“You have to make them a little more moist,” he said after his win.

Though the DFD team lost, the chance to boost a cause and decompress was worthwhile, said Eric Jones, executive fire commissioner. “They see some horrible things in the line of duty. Whenever you can get away from it just for a moment just to have fun and do a good service is great.”

Firefighter Al Vadasy slung mustard in the battle for the first time this year. The five coneys he wolfed were “three more than I should,” the teammate said, but the challenge was fun. “It’s a friendly rivalry,” he said.

The first responders still were wiping off their fingers when the civilian half of the contest started on the sidewalk outside.

At a long table between red, white and blue balloons, the five competitors had twice as long to devour the coneys — with a minute after to keep the contents down.

Though the participants heartily worked to clear their aluminum trays, none could match Matt Holowicki of Plymouth, who had twice claimed the crown for top coney-eater.

While onlookers watched from a fire rig and motivating tracks such as “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Eat It” blared, he notched his third victory with a personal record: 20 coneys.

Holowicki credited a focusing exercise on helping him cinch the bejeweled belt that accompanies the prize. “It’s mind over matter,” he said.

Roshelle Taylor Jr. of Detroit enjoyed watching the activities. “It was great,” he said. “We need to keep that going.”