The annual tradition of people eating a grotesque number of hot dogs on July 4 will continue this year despite the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs announced on Tuesday that the hot dog eating competition will take place on July 4, still televised on ESPN, but that it will not happen in front of a packed crowd in Coney Island. Rather, it will occur in a private, closed location with just five participants in the men’s and women’s competitions instead of 15. The 12-time reigning, defending champion Joey Chestnut will once again put his mustard belt on the line for the men, while six-time women’s champ Miki Sudo puts the women’s belt up for grabs in the 10-minute competition.
“We’re ecstatic to make the announcement that the Hot Dog-Eating Contest will take place this year,” said James Walker, Nathan’s Famous Senior Vice President, Restaurants, via ABC7 in New York. “2020 has been a year for the history books, and the realization that this storied July 4 tradition would be able to occur, is a great feeling. With that being said, our country and our world has endured so much in the last couple of months, that we’d be remiss if we didn’t use this moment to honor those that have done so much for each of us during this time.”
Typically, the contest takes place in front of a large crowd cheering and offering some much needed background noise, while the emcee of the proceedings shouts out people’s progress and if anyone is on the trail of the legendary Chestnut. This year, however, the broadcast on ESPN has to figure out how to make a fan-less event not sound completely disgusting, as it could be a true ASMR disaster to just have the “sounds of the game,” if you will, of folks housing hot dogs and chugging water/lemonade/etc. to help down the dogs. It’ll be interesting to watch how they work around that or if they just steer into the skid and mic up Chestnut as he chases his record of 74 dogs in silence.
The good news is that the contest will be benefiting some very good and fitting causes, as Nathan’s will provide their customary 100,000 hot dog donation to the Food Bank for New York City, but also using the broadcast to raise funds and awareness for food banks around the country as food insecurity is a massive problem during the pandemic.