Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest will go on this year in front of a live crowd

Reigning Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion Joey Chestnut weighed-in at 220 pounds on July 3, 2020 ahead of the 2020 competition.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

A red hot Fourth of July crowd will return to Coney Island this summer for the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest — the borough’s answer to the Super Bowl and Kentucky Derby combined.

The gastronomical gorge-fest took place last summer without fans in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But with virus cases plummeting, vaccines making the rounds and the city reopening, the organizers of the contest are ready to let fans be part of the frankfurter fun again.

But the beefy brouhaha, traditionally held outside Nathan’s flagship eatery at the corner of Stillwell and Surf Avenues, will instead be held this year a few blocks over at Maimonides Park — the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Tickets are free and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis — with all attendees subject to federal, state and city health and safety protocols.

The change still limits the contest’s attendance. In past years, crowds of up to 30,000 would gather at Stillwell and Surf Avenues for the sausage showdown. Maimonides Park’s seating capacity is about 7,000. 

Nevertheless, Nathan’s Famous relishes the prospect of returning the contest to its original location in 2022. 

“It is encouraging to hold this event live for fans, who last year were unable to celebrate July 4 as they traditionally do,” said James Walker, senior vice president of restaurants for Nathan’s Famous. “Next year, we hope to return to the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, where we have held this event for decade after decade.” 

“The Nathan’s Famous contest is the crown jewel of the Fourth of July, and stands as a beacon of freedom for all those who believe in American exceptionalism,” said promoter George Shea of Major League Eating (MLE). 

The frankfurter festivities get underway on July 4 at 10 am at Maimonides Park, with the women’s hot dog eating contest at 11 am, followed by the men’s competition at 12:30 pm.

The reigning champion on the men’s side, Joey Chestnut, is scheduled to return to Coney Island to defend his mustard yellow belt this year. Last year, Chestnut wharfed down a world record 75 hot dogs and buns in just 10 minutes to win his fifth-straight title.

“Joey Chestnut is a national treasure,” Shea added. “The rock on which he stands is not a rock — it is the United States of America.”

The women’s hot dog eating contest this year will miss last year’s champion, Miki Sudo, who won’t be competing in 2021, according to MLE. In 2020, Sudo ate a world record 48.5 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes to win her seventh-straight championship. The distant second place finisher, Larell Marie Mele, devoured 18 hot dogs and buns in the same time.

You can request tickets for the 2021 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest by emailing nathanshotdogeatingcontest2021@nathansfamous.com, or by visiting MajorLeagueEating.com.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.