FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The City Tavern in the downtown Fort Myers River District is holding its first ever Chili Dog Eating Contest. Proceeds will benefit the local American Legion Post 38, which services up to 200 veterans a month.
Most people who go through the legion’s doors need food from the food pantry. Other times, they need to cover their basic needs, like paying an electric bill or gas. The American Legion Post 38 relies almost solely on donations.
"The Korean Veterans. The World War II veterans. The greatest generation ever. They're the ones who paved the way for us to have the freedoms and liberties that we have and protect us from oppression and tyranny from overseas," says Post Commander and Navy veteran Kevin Boyd.
Local businessmen Kevin Offerman and Jason Stretch came up with the idea of hosting a chili dog eating contest after Stretch hosted a similar event in New Hampshire. Stretch has several family members in the military and wanted to help raise awareness of the needs of local veterans. “There's something very intriguing about seeing people trying to shove as many chili dogs as they can and it's like reality TV almost. So it'll be fun and I think this event will build every year."
Coincidentally, Offerman’s grandfather was a naval aviator in both World War II and the Korean War. Offerman drafted Kenneth Hansen, who turns 93 years old this month, to enter the contest. When told he’s part of the greatest generation, Hansen says he was simply a survivor.
He keeps in touch with one other living sailor from his squadron. About two years ago, he had to give up his daily passion of playing golf but remains active by going to the gym every day and spending time with family. Although he says he’s only good for one hot dog, he’s happy to oblige. He says, "Glad to see we still got freedom here. We got to keep fighting for it, more and more. It's always in danger."
Doors open at 11 am at City Tavern. The block party starts at 4. The hot dog eating festivities start at 6. Families are welcome with a kids zone on site. T-shirts and other items will be up for sale with proceeds going to the American Legion Post 38.