Competitive hot-dog eating will persevere — in private.
The coronavirus is not canceling Nathan’s famous, international hot-dog eating contest, organizers announced Tuesday. Instead, the pandemic is just turning the stomach-expanding sport into a more intimate affair.
The July Fourth tradition, usually held outside Nathan’s original location on Coney Island’s Surf and Stillwell avenues, will this year take place at a private location in the neighborhood, without a live audience and with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
“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 chair and competition host George Shea tells The Post. “I think that there are a lot of people very happy to have something typical of the summer.”
While fans won’t be able to experience the wiener-stuffing extravaganza live, ESPN will broadcast it at noon ET, a tradition since 2004. (The contest itself is now in its 104th year.)
“It is one of the first major [televised] post-COVID competitive events to be held in the United States,” a press release hypes.
The pandemic has also made the competition more cutthroat, with fewer competitors allowed so as to ensure social distancing. While past years have featured 15 hungry contenders each in the male and female divisions, this year just five men and five women will be allowed to fight for the title.
Twelve-time champion Joey Chestnut and six-time winner Miki Sudo will return to defend their guts’ honor. Chestnut’s record is 74 dogs, Sudo’s 41.
“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,” tweeted Chestnut.
The city, Shea says, has given the competition the green light to take place.
“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 contest would be like canceling the Fourth of July. That is why we had to make it work one way or another.”
The state, however, notes that the contest’s ability to take place is reliant on the current reopening restrictions governing NYC come the 4th.
“While I know all New Yorkers would relish the opportunity to watch the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4th, an event like this can only go forward if the appropriate non-essential gathering and sanitation guidance can be followed,” Governor Andrew Cuomo’s spokesperson Jack Sterne tells The Post.
If in Phase 3, the event will need to feature no more than 25 people. With only 10 contestants, the current maximum number of persons allowed in a gathering under Phase 1, Shea is confident the contest will be able to “abide by whatever the restriction is.”
Until then, addition to spreading cheer through extreme eating, the competition aims to donate 100,000 Nathan’s Famous hot dogs to Food Bank for New York City.
Another Fourth of July tradition, the Macy’s fireworks, are looking less likely to happen — although New Yorkers have more than their fill of pyrotechnics thanks to a massive uptick in illegal shows.
The annual Mermaid Parade has also been put on hold, with Coney Island USA instead holding a streaming event called NOT the Mermaid Parade on June 20. The nonprofit also recently hosted a DIY mask-making competition called the Maskies.