MONTVILLE, NJ – It’s fun to have a bucket list – but it’s even more fun when your daughter jumps in to do the activities with you!

Last year, Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar participated in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4 on Coney Island, an item on her bucket list, she told TAPinto Montville.

Her family came out to cheer her on, and 30-year-old daughter Kristina Rovtar thought it looked like so much fun, she wanted to do it with her mom this year, too, the pair said.

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Early in June, the family plus Kristina’s boyfriend Ryan traveled to Syracuse for the “Taste of Syracuse” festival, where a Nathan’s qualifier was being held. In order to participate in the July 4th eat-off, first you have to qualify in one of the earlier contests, René explained.

“We had a great time, sampling all the great food at the festival from all these food trucks,” René said, “but Kristina couldn’t eat anything so that she would have an empty stomach for the qualifier.”

Kristina ate 6.5 hotdogs in 10 minutes, and won herself a place at the table on the 4th of July with her mom.

“Nobody really puts any toppings or condiments on the hot dogs,” Kristina explained. “But you have to eat the buns, too, which we dip into water.”

René qualified once again this year at a Norfolk, VA contest the next week.

“I only ate seven, because I was getting over a respiratory infection and the antibiotics were making me nauseous,” she said. “But it was enough. It got me where I wanted to be. The winning man ate 30! I pale in comparison – but I’m OK with that!”

“We did this for fun and we have no aspirations to win,” Kristina said.

Did the pair train for the big day at all?

“We worked on our technique a little,” Kristina said. “I watched a few [competitive eater] Matt Stonie videos on YouTube.”

“I’m still watching videos,” René said with a laugh. “I wanted to see how they get so many down so fast.”

“Yeah – we eat daintily – we don’t wolf,” Kristina said.

René explained that there is a deduction for too much “debris,” i.e., food that doesn’t make its way into the mouth.

“If you watch us, you wouldn’t be squeamish,” she said.

The pair described the big day, saying that while there were some nerves among the competitors, everybody was very nice.

“There were two buses to get from the hotel to the venue,” Kristina explained. “I was actually sitting next to [multiple-year winner] Joey Chestnut. He asked me about my goals and I asked him about being on the ‘Amazing Race’ [TV show]. The atmosphere is so fun. We genuinely had a great time.”

“Everyone joked on the bus and it really loosens you up,” René said. “Afterward, there’s even a party at a local bar, and everyone is welcoming and fun.”

The day dawned very hot and humid, and people came from far and wide to view the competition, René said.

“It’s an electric atmosphere,” she said. “We posed for pictures and signed autographs.”

“We were so flattered even though we weren’t the ‘heavy hitters.’” Kristina said with a laugh.

The pair was disappointed to learn that they were seated at opposite ends of the all-female table, but agreed it was probably better. The humidity made it brutal to eat a lot, they said. Kristina ate five hot dogs, while René ate 6.5 in ten minutes.  Last year, René was able to jam down eight. 

“You don’t want to experience what is known as ‘Reversal of Fortune,” René said. “I’d rather just eat fewer hot dogs than have them come up.”

For the rest of the day, the pair said they were very thirsty and didn’t eat anything else.

What’s next on their plates? René has already participated in her next eating contest. Last week she participated in a pizza-eating contest in Toronto. She managed to eat one and three-quarters 10” pies.

“The crust gets in the way,” she complained with a laugh. “The winner was a man who ate 19. He also won a taco-eating contest.”

She also intends to enter a pork roll-eating contest again this year in September at the Trenton Thunder ball park.

René also only has six states remaining to visit out of the entire 50.

Kristina, an art teacher at Hanover Park High School, says she is “goal oriented like her mom,” and has visited states numbering in the high 30s.

“We’re very adventurous and like to try new things – and have lots of laughs along the way,” she said. “We do a lot of stuff together. I’m very lucky.”

“Me too!” agreed René.

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