The number of contestants will also be reduced to accommodate social distancing.

By Mike Pomranz
June 24, 2020
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The COVID-19 pandemic may have altered your July 4 plans, but Independence Day will still go on—and so will the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

How the event would look has been up in the air, but speculation seemed to confirm that the annual test of hot dog endurance would continue, coronavirus be damned. Back in April, Major League Eating (MLE)—which officially sanctions Nathan’s contest—boasted that it would be the “first major league sport back” with a bracket-style online eating competition. And perennial Nathan’s champion Joey Chestnut told TMZ he was still training for the event, despite being quarantined at home.

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So, for 2020—the 104th edition of the contest—Chestnut and company will indeed be eating indoors. According to MLE, the event will take place in Coney Island, but “in a private location with COVID-19 safety measures in place.” Today reports that this first-ever indoor venue will be “a large, open warehouse-like space” featuring a 30-foot-long table. Regardless, for those used to watching the event at home, ESPN will still broadcast it starting at 12 noon Eastern Time.

“We’re ecstatic to make the announcement that the Hot Dog-Eating Contest will take place this year,” James Walker, Nathan’s Famous senior vice president, restaurants, stated. “2020 has been a year for the history books, and the realization that this storied July 4th 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.”

On that last note, competition organizers said that, beyond its usual annual donation of 100,000 hot dogs to Food Bank for New York City, additional efforts will be made this year to raise money for and awareness of the needs of food banks and the work these organizations do.

Back to the actual competition, besides the location, another significant change this year is that the event will feature only five eaters instead of the typical 15—a move the MLE says is “to allow for social distancing.” But seeing as Joey Chestnut has won 12 of the last 13 competitions, including the past four, the number of participants is likely a moot point.

And yet, always looking for an edge, Chestnut seemed to see other potential differences this year as well. “There's a little bit of a bonus 'cause we're gonna be eating in air conditioning and they're less eaters, so they're making less hot dogs so they might taste better,” Chestnut told TMZ Sports. “There's a good chance that we might have better conditions for a world record and I'ma be pushing for it.” No wonder this guy is a champion.