(CNN) — There might have been a ghost at the feast, but that didn’t stop the winner of Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest – Patrick Bertoletti – from celebrating Thursday.

Dynastic hot dog eating champion Joey Chestnut was not competing, of course, after the 16-time winner struck a deal with plant-based food company Impossible Foods.

Bertoletti pulled ahead in the closing minutes to win with 58 hot dogs, after one of the closest races in recent years.

Nathan’s Famous competition got underway in historic fashion with the women’s contest as reigning champion Miki Sudo broke a women’s record by eating 51 hot dogs and buns.

She beat second place Mayoi Ebihara by 14 hot dogs and buns to secure her 10th title at the contest.

“We finally beat 50, guys,” Sudo told ESPN after her historic performance. “I’ll see you next year.”

Bertoletti bested Geoffrey Esper (53) and James Webb (52), who rounded out the top three. This was Bertoletti’s first title in his ninth career appearance, according to the ESPN2 broadcast.

But there was a Chestnut-shaped hole in this year’s event. The maestro of mastication has won the “Mustard Yellow Belt” 16 times, and ate a world record 76 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes in 2021.

If Chestnut was absent from Nathan’s Famous contest, he wasn’t going to allow Independence Day to pass by without taking on a food challenge.

The 40-year-old competed in his own live-streamed showcase event, taking on four US Army soldiers at the Fort Bliss base in El Paso, Texas, in an “all-beef” hot dog eating event that raised money for military families.

Chestnut devoured 57 hot dogs in five minutes while the soldiers he competed against maxed out at a combined 49.

“Hot dogs on the Fourth of July in front of people who are celebrating America – it doesn’t get any better than this,” Chestnut said with a championship belt along his shoulder.

With 106 total hot dogs eaten, $106,000 was raised and donated to military families.

Chestnut had reportedly said he hoped to eat more hotdogs in five minutes than the winner of Nathan’s competition does in 10 minutes.

“I think 56 is doable,’’ he had said, per USA Today. “I’d be very happy to do that.’’

What about next year?

The Major League Eating (MLE) organization, which oversees the world-renowned event, has emphasized that Chestnut is not banned for life from competing, citing his 20-year relationship with the league. The organization said that, to come back, Chestnut must renounce deals with brands that rival Nathan’s.

“Joey Chestnut is an American hero. We would love nothing more than to have him at Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, which he has dominated for years. We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand,” MLE said in a statement.

An account under Chestnut’s name posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Tuesday that he does “not have a contract with MLE or Nathans and they are looking to change the rules from past years as it relates to other partners I can work with.”

CNN has not independently confirmed the authenticity of the X account.

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