Published: Jul 04, 2011 3:17 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 04, 2011 2:17 PM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) - Whether it's with an explosion of colorful fireworks, a hometown parade or just one burger too many, people across the United States will celebrate Independence Day Monday - each in his own way.

Thousands will camp out near the Washington Monument, eagerly the festivities there, while others will throw on a Hawaiian shirt and shorts and head for the still-snowy slopes at resorts from California to Colorado. If you're in Boston, the annual Boston Pops concert is a must. But if you're in Akron, Ohio, the Rib, White & Blue Food Festival is enticing. And then, there are Nevada's casinos. They're promising a pyrotechnics extravaganza that could be a gambler's best bet.

For some, though, the holiday wouldn't be the same without the annual Nathan's July Fourth hot dog eating contest in Coney Island. Short in timespan but high in calories, this contest brings out the biggest eaters from all over the U.S., and sometimes the world.

This year, for the first time Nathan's will sponsor separate competitions for men and women. They will split the $20,000 in prize money and time spent in the spotlight of competitive eating.

Last year, 218-pound Joey "Jaws" Chestnut of San Jose, CA, wolfed down 54 hot dogs and buns during the 10-minute contest. He proudly won for the fourth consecutive year. Tim "Eater X" Janus came in second after eating 45 dogs and buns. Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti placed third, consuming 37 hot dogs.

Chestnut was disappointed that he didn't beat the 68 hotdogs that won him the 2009 contest. The top female eater that year, Sonya Thomas, put away 41 hot dogs and buns. Both will be back on Monday.

No matter how many hot dogs they eat, fans will be rooting for them. Tens of thousands show up to watch the contest in front of Nathan's Famous fast-food stand in Coney Island and many more will watch it on television. The women's competition is to begin at 11:30 a.m., followed by the men's at noon. They will be shown on ESPN.

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