“The celebration of freedom”: Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest a go for July 4, with social distancing

Clamoring for the return of sports in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic?  Good news: Major League Eating (MLE) says the 2020 International Hot Dog-Eating Contest is a go for Fourth of July on Coney Island.

However, the pandemic will have an effect on the annual gathering of gastronomic gladiators.  Traditionally held on the crowded corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues for generations, the event this year will take place “in a private location with COVID-19 safety measures in place,” MLE says in a press release.

This year, the 10-minute frankfurter free-for-all will be limited to five eaters, rather than the usual 15, to allow for social distancing. Once again, world record holder Joey Chestnut will defend his title and the Mustard Yellow Belt; his record stands at 74 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.

Last year’s female winner, Miki Sudo, is in the pole position.  The six-time contest winner’s all-time best is 41 hot dogs and buns.

Nathan’s Famous has announced a donation of 100,000 hot dogs to Food Bank for New York City, and the event will be dedicated to raising funds for food banks.  In addition, MLE and individual eaters will donate to, and highlight the contributions of, these organizations. 2020’s contest will also honor essential workers in New York City who have gone the distance during the pandemic.

“The Nathan’s Famous contest is synonymous with July 4th, America and the celebration of freedom,” said contest host George Shea. “We are honored to use the contest to highlight the incredible spirit of those who have supported our city and nation through the current challenge.”

ESPN will air the event live at 12:20 p.m. Eastern time on July 4.