Nathan's Hot Dog Contest Still Taking Place With One Major Change

The show must go on. Though most sporting events have been put on hold until later this year, the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest will still take place. The organizers behind Major League Eating, the professional outfit that runs the perennial event every July 4th, announced Tuesday morning the event will still take place, with a catch. To adhere to social distancing standards in the coronavirus era — standards that are sure to soon become the norm — the event will take place without a live audience.

The event is also being moved from its typical residence outside of the original Nathan's Hot Dog stand on Coney Island. Instead, it will take place at a private location in the neighborhood so as to give the competitors ample space to distance themselves from one another. As such, the field of participants this year is being narrowed significantly.

Between the men's and women's divisions each year, normally 30 contestants partake; this time around, however, just five competitors will be able to take part in each division. Two of those 10 participants are sure to be reigning champs Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo. Chestnut is a 12-time champions of the event and currently holds the world record by eating 74 hot dogs in a matter of eight minutes. Sudo has won the event six times and holds a personal best of 41 hot dogs and buns eaten.

It's not immediately available who the other eight participants will be, though it's likely safe to expect top-ranked eaters like Geoffrey Esper, Matt Stonie, and Michelle Lesco to be involved.

“We had an enormous number of inquiries related to ‘Will it happen, please don’t cancel.’ We were very pleased to be able to figure it out,” Major League Eating boss George Shea tells the New York Post. “I think that there are a lot of people very happy to have something typical of the summer.”

Though fans won't be able to attend the event in-person, ESPN will still be carrying coverage of the event beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern on the Fourth of July. As the MLE mentions in a press release, it will be one of the first major sporting events to return since the world started to shutter as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Earlier this month, Chestnut confirmed in a post on social media that he had started practicing for the event, grilling up dozens of dogs at home in preparation. "I may not be able to get my hair cut, but you can bet I'm able to practice for the 4th of July hot dog eating contest," the pro eater wrote at the time.

With the event this year, Major League Eating and Nathan's Famous have also committed to donating 100,000 franks to the Food Bank for New York City.

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