Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York, will go on as planned on July 4, but with a few alterations because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. There will be no crowds and, instead of 15 contestants, there will be only five to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Joey Chestnut hot dog eating contest
Joey Chestnut will be going for his 13th Mustard Belt in the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, but there will be no crowds to cheer him on because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. (Image: Getty)

The annual competition has been contested since 1916 at the corner of Surf and Stillwell streets. Hundreds of people endure the heat and humidity of July 4 to cheer on those trying to win the coveted Mustard Belt.

This year, the hot dog eating contest will be held in a private location. ESPN will televise both the men’s and women’s competitions. James Walker, Nathan’s senior vice president says it’s important to hold the contest, despite the global pandemic.

“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.”

The company plans on its annual donation of 100,000 hot dogs to Food Bank for New York City. They are also going to highlight New York City’s essential workers, Walker said.

Tradition is Important

George Shea, who is the Major League Eating chairman and emcee of the event, had frank discussions with state officials. He told The New York Post it would be inconceivable not to have the annual event.

“You can’t cancel Thanksgiving, you can’t cancel Christmas, and you can’t cancel the Fourth of July,” Shea said. “And canceling the hot dog eating contest would be like canceling the Fourth of July. That is why we had to make it work one way or another.”

New York is the state that’s been hit hardest by the COVID-19 global pandemic. There have been 389,349 reported cases in New York, with 30,683 deaths. New York is slowly reopening its economy, based on protocols put in place by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Shea says he’s confident that the hot dog eating contest will adhere to all of the regulations.

Can Competitors Ketchup to Joey Chestnut?

Once again, Joey Chestnut is the overwhelming favorite to win the men’s division. The 12-time champion has been busy training during the pandemic.

Will Joey Chestnut win the 2020 Hot Dog Eating Contest

Yes -900
No +500


“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,” Chestnut wrote on Twitter.

Miki Sudo is the favorite in the women’s division. She is also defending champion, and has won the contest six times.