The World Taco Eating Championship in Fresno was canceled by the Fresno Grizzlies on Wednesday following the death of a 41-year-old man during an eating contest.
The Taco Truck Throwdown will continue as scheduled, according to Paul Braverman, a spokesman for the Triple-A baseball team. The event includes 30 taco trucks, plus entertainment from Goodie Mob with CeeLo Green, Too Short and A.B. Quintanilla and the Kumbia Kings.
Dana Hutchings died during an amateur taco eating contest that ran during the third inning of the minor-league baseball game between the Grizzlies and the Memphis Redbirds on Tuesday night.
The contest was being held on “Taco Tuesday” as a prelude to the ninth annual Taco Truck Throwdown, but was not a qualifier for the World Taco Eating Championship, according to the Fresno Grizzlies.
It also was not sanctioned by Major League Eating, the national organization that runs the World Taco Eating Championship.
In past years, the Grizzlies have hosted a local qualifying contest, with the winner earning a spot to compete against professionals like Joey Chestnut and Matt Stonie.
Grizzlies fan Matthew Boylan, who attended Tuesday night’s game with his wife and four children, said he was able to watch the taco eating contest from his seat in Section 105 just by turning around. Another 30 to 40 fans stood nearby to watch the contest up close.
Boylan said he quickly noticed Hutchings because “he was eating so fast compared to the other two (contestants).”
“It was like he’d never eaten before,” Boylan added. “He was just shoving the tacos down his mouth without chewing.”
About seven minutes into the contest, Hutchings collapsed and hit his face on a table as he went down to the ground, Boylan said. The eating contest immediately ended, though there was no stoppage to the actual baseball game.
An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday, according to the coroner’s office.
Over the past two years, World Taco Eating Championship has drawn Major League Eating heavies like Chestnut and Stonie. Chestnut ate a record 92 carne asada tacos in eight minutes during the 2017 competition.
Last year’s winner, Geoffrey Esper, ate 73 tacos and won $2,000 for his efforts.
This isn’t the first time a death has occurred during an eating competition. In 2017, a 20-year old college student died during a pancake eating contest at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. In 2018, a retired boxed died in a during a croissant eating contest in Argentina.