With Plexiglass and Piles of Hot Dogs, a Fourth of July Tradition Lives On

Written by on July 4, 2020

With Independence Day celebrations canceled across the nation, one distinctly American custom continued on Saturday regardless of the pandemic: the annual pilgrimage of aggressive eaters to Coney Island for the Nathan’s Well-known Sizzling Canine Consuming Contest. However with cheering crowds turned away to advertise social distancing, contestants as an alternative chowed down amid a refrain of gulping and chewing from their opponents.

Held with out fail each Fourth of July since 1942, the occasion ordinarily attracts hundreds to the unique Nathan’s location in Brooklyn. Spectators sweat beneath foam scorching canine hats, cheering as they watch a panel of opponents dunk the sausages into water — to melt the buns — all within the title of America.

“The Nathan’s Well-known contest is synonymous with July Fourth, America and the celebration of freedom,” stated the occasion’s host, George Shea, who is understood for his extravagantly patriotic commentary. He launched the winner of the 2019 males’s competitors as “the very vessel of our freedom” and “the champion of the Fourth of July.”

PictureHot dogs prepared for the 2020 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Credit score…John Taggart for The New York Instances

However there was no crowd this yr to cheer raucously, and the aggressive eaters, who normally hover over their piles of scorching canines shoulder to shoulder, had been spaced aside from each other. The competition was restricted to 5 girls and 6 males to permit for enough social distancing. One lady was unable to attend due to restrictions on journey to New York from Arizona, the place coronavirus instances are surging.

Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., who received his 13th title on Saturday after consuming a document 75 scorching canines in 10 minutes, stated in an interview on Friday that it will be difficult to not be surrounded by the deafening cheers from the gang this yr — and for the primary time to have the ability to hear his opponents whereas they chow down.

“They’re going to be burping and groaning, and I’m simply going to need to concentrate on my scorching canines,” Mr. Chestnut stated.

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For Mr. Chestnut, 36, the affirmation that the competition would nonetheless go on “made it loads simpler to follow.” Consuming 40 or 50 scorching canines at a time with out the knowledge that the competitors would occur this yr was a bit “miserable,” he stated.

Credit score…John Taggart for The New York Instances

The reigning girls’s champion, Miki Sudo of Torrington, Conn., defended her title this yr, profitable for the seventh time by scarfing down a document 48 and a half scorching canines.

“It is a competitors not like something that we’ve had earlier than,” she stated. This yr’s precautions embrace plexiglass and not less than six ft of distance between eaters, in addition to testing and temperature checks for opponents.

The situation of this yr’s scorching canine slog, which has been held each summer time since 1916 besides 1941, when it was canceled as a protest to the warfare in Europe, was not disclosed publicly forward of the occasion to discourage loyal followers from flocking to it.

“Thanks a lot for supporting us out of your residing rooms,” Ms. Sudo stated after profitable the competitors.

Ms. Sudo stated she was ecstatic when she discovered the competitors would nonetheless occur this yr, and had three follow occasions together with her boyfriend, Nick Wehry, who additionally competed on Saturday.

She cooked up “10 minutes’ price of scorching canines” — about 40 wieners — for every coaching session.

Although he’s unable to “give sweaty hugs to folks afterward” this yr, Mr. Chestnut stated he was inspired that individuals might nonetheless watch at dwelling.

He described the standard crowd as stuffed with “actual New Yorkers” who don’t depart city for the Fourth — devoted followers who, up till this yr, sizzled beneath the solar to witness the feast.

“I do know they’re going to be watching, and regardless that they’re not in particular person, I’m blissful I’m nonetheless a part of their Fourth of July,” Mr. Chestnut stated.

John Taggart contributed reporting.


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