The coronavirus outbreak moved the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest from the Coney Island boardwalk to an undisclosed indoor location but the results were familiar: Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo repeated as men's and women's champions of the annual gluttony fest on Saturday.
Chestnut downed 75 wieners and buns in 10 minutes and Sudo downed 48 1/2 in the same span, setting new world records for both the men's and women's events. “I’m always pushing for a record,” Chestnut said before the contest started. “I know that’s what the fans want.”
The annual Fourth of July hot dog contest normally takes place outside Nathan’s flagship shop in Brooklyn but was held indoors without in-person spectators on Saturday. Just five women and five men competed, and clear plastic barriers separated them as they chowed down.
“Minute six is where I really missed the crowd,” Chestnut said on ESPN, which broadcast the competition, “and I hit a wall, and it took me a little bit more work to get through it.”
It was Chestnut's 13th Nathan's Famous win and Sudo's seventh. They will each take home $10,000.
In many parts of the country, authorities sought to curb the enthusiasm for mass gatherings after days that have seen COVID-19 cases grow at a rate not experienced even during the deadliest phase of the pandemic in the spring.
Infections rose in 40 out of 50 states heading into what will be a very different July Fourth weekend, as the virus continues to make a resurgence following weeks of nationwide containment measures that have been re-imposed in many areas amid the upswing.
The spike in cases has led states to rethink holiday celebrations and revaluate whether or not partaking in July 4 festivities would be worth the risk of adding more COVID-19 cases to the already increasing numbers of infected people.
In New York, once the epicenter, people were urged to avoid crowds and Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest happened at an undisclosed location without spectators on hand, in advance of the evening's televised fireworks spectacular over the Empire State Building.
In Philadelphia, mask- and glove-wearing descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence participated in a virtual tapping of the famed Liberty Bell on Independence Mall and people were asked to join from afar by clinking glasses, tapping pots or ringing bells.
The president opened the holiday weekend by traveling to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for a fireworks display Friday night near the mountain carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. In stark words, he accused protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.”
Even as he pushed ahead with celebrations, the shadow of COVID-19 loomed closer to him. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraiser for the president and girlfriend of his eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., tested positive for the virus, Trump's campaign said late Friday. Guilfoyle tweeted Saturday that she was looking forward to “a speedy recovery."
In a presidential message Saturday on the 244th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Trump acknowledged that “over the past months, the American spirit has undoubtedly been tested by many challenges.”
Trump's endorsement of big gatherings at the National Mall and at Mount Rushmore came as many communities decided to scrap fireworks, parades and other holiday traditions in hopes of avoiding yet more surges in infection.
Confirmed cases are climbing in 40 states, and the U.S. set another record Friday with 52,300 newly reported infections, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this report.