With Plexiglass and Piles of Scorching Canines, a Fourth of July Custom Lives On

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Whereas some Independence Day celebrations are canceled across the nation, no less than one distinctly American custom is ready to happen on Saturday regardless of the pandemic: the annual pilgrimage of aggressive eaters to Coney Island for the Nathan’s Well-known Scorching Canine Consuming Contest. However with cheering crowds turned away to advertise social distancing, contestants will as a substitute chow all the way down to a distracting refrain of gulping and chewing from their rivals.

Held 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 rivals dunk the sausages into water — to melt the buns — all within the identify of America.

“The Nathan’s Well-known contest is synonymous with July Fourth, America and the celebration of freedom,” mentioned 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.”

However there might be no crowd this 12 months to cheer raucously, and the aggressive eaters, who normally hover over their piles of scorching canine shoulder to shoulder, might be spaced other than each other. The competition is restricted to 5 girls and 6 males to permit for satisfactory social distancing.

Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., a 12-time winner who carried final 12 months’s males’s competitors by consuming 71 scorching canine in 10 minutes, mentioned in an interview on Friday that it will be difficult to not be surrounded by the deafening cheers from the group this 12 months — and for the primary time to have the ability to hear his rivals whereas they chow down.

“They’re going to be burping and groaning, and I’m simply going to must deal with my scorching canine,” Mr. Chestnut mentioned.

For Mr. Chestnut, 36, the affirmation that the competition would nonetheless go on “made it loads simpler to follow.” Consuming 40 or 50 scorching canine at a time with out the understanding that the competitors would occur this 12 months was a bit “miserable,” he mentioned.

The reigning girls’s champion, Miki Sudo of Torrington, Conn., can also be defending her title this 12 months after scarfing down 31 scorching canine within the 2019 contest.

“It is a competitors in contrast to something that we’ve had earlier than,” she mentioned. This 12 months’s precautions embrace plexiglass and no less than six toes of distance between eaters, in addition to testing and temperature checks for rivals.

The situation of this 12 months’s scorching canine slog, which has been held each summer time since 1916 besides 1941, when it was canceled as a protest to the battle in Europe, was not disclosed publicly forward of the occasion to discourage loyal followers from flocking to it.

Ms. Sudo mentioned she was ecstatic when she discovered the competitors would nonetheless occur this 12 months, and had three follow occasions together with her boyfriend, Nick Wehry, who can even compete on Saturday.

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

Although he’s unable to “give sweaty hugs to folks afterward” this 12 months, Mr. Chestnut mentioned he was inspired that folks may nonetheless watch at residence. (ESPN is ready to point out the occasion stay at midday Japanese time.)

He described the everyday crowd as stuffed with “actual New Yorkers” who don’t depart city for the Fourth — devoted followers who, up till this 12 months, sizzled below the solar to witness the feast.

“I do know they’re going to be watching, and though they’re not in particular person, I’m completely satisfied I’m nonetheless a part of their Fourth of July,” Mr. Chestnut mentioned.

John Taggart contributed reporting.

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