The spring thaw brings March Madness and Spring Training, not to mention NBA playoff races and NFL free agency. Hungry sports fans have plenty to consume. And Tailgate Fan has something to add to your plate.

Spring brings with it a fuller calendar of competitive eating events. The sport doesn’t technically have an offseason — you can find an eating competition or challenge most days of the year. But warmer weather moves the competitions outside, where everyone can loosen their belts a little.

What’s on the menu this spring? From chicken wings to ice cream to onions, food competitions around the country celebrate local cuisine and classic favorites. Grab a napkin and scoot in your chair, here are some of the competitive eating events coming to a table in Tailgate Nation this spring.

The Great American Barbecue And Beer Festival

March 21, 2015

Eat in the new season at The Great American Barbecue and Beer Festival in Chandler, Arizona. Test you mettle —  and your stomach — at one of the festival’s many eating events. Bratwurst, ribs, wings and pies are all on the menu, in very large quantities. Who will clean their plate first? These contests, fun as they can be, are only open to adults 18 and up. Check out live performances by Eli Young Band, Laura Walsh and others while you’re walking off all that food.

Southwest Coffee and Chocolate Fest

Photo Credit: Southwest Coffee and Chocolate Fest

S’mores Eating Contest

March 21-22, 2015

Chili and hot wing-eating competitions have their places, but us sweet tooths might be better served at the Southwest Coffee and Chocolate Fest’s S’mores Eating Contest. The contest, held on both days of the festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, challenges contestants to see who can be the first to eat an entire plate of this gooey sweet dessert. Kids as young as seven years old can compete; a separate field is available for everyone over the age of 13.

Read more about Competitive Eating.

World-Famous Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest — Qualifier

April 12, 2015

Every journey must start with a single step… or bite. And that is certainly true for the competitors who hope to chow down at The World-Famous Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island on the Fourth of July. To get a spot at the table, competitors have to qualify at one of 13 events around the country, including this one in Atlanta, Georgia. The goal, of course, is to eat as many hot dogs as possible. What’s the prize? The top male and female eaters earn a spot in the Fourth of July event. The contest is a Major League Eating-sanctioned event.

Hot Wing Eating Contest held at the Southern Hot Wing Festival

Photo Credit: Blurred Image Photography

Hot Wing Eating Contest

April 25, 2015

Some like it hot, and that’s definitely true at the Hot Wing Eating Contest held at the Southern Hot Wing Festival in Memphis, Tennessee. The challenge, which is to eat as many hot wings as possible, has a two-step approach. In the first round, contestants have three minutes to chow down on the wings. The top eaters better hope they still have room, as the second round has them scarfing down hot wings for five minutes. Applicants must be 18 and up and need to apply in advance. In previous years, the winners snagged $300.

World Famous Onion Eating Contest

April 25, 2015

It’s one thing to eat an onion slice on top of a burger or in a salad. It’s quite another to eat as many baby onions as you can. The World Famous Onion Eating Contest, held at the Vidalia Onion Festival in Vidalia, Georgia challenges you to do just that. The event divides the competition into three age categories and awards prizes to the winners. The festival celebrates all things onion, too, and has themed pageants, a cooking competition and more. Plan to bring your own breath mints after this competition.

Vidalia Onion Festival Onion Eating Contest

Photo Credit: Vidalia Onion Festival

South Carolina Strawberry Festival

May 1 and 2, 2015

This year, celebrate all things strawberry at the South Carolina Strawberry Festival in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The two-day event, which includes a car show and a pageant, also offers three eating contests for ice cream, strawberry shortcake and hot wings. While children can participate in the ice cream and strawberry shortcake contests, the hot wings contest is for adults only.

Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at


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