Hot dog! NYC marks July 4 with return of crowds at eating contest

U.S. & World

Winners Joey Chestnut and Michelle Lesco pose with their championship belts and trophies at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island’s Maimonides Park on Sunday, July 4, 2021, in Brooklyn, New York. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

NEW YORK (AP) — After a year lost to the coronavirus, New York City’s most well-known Fourth of July traditions are back.

The traditional Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks show will be back in full form with a display over the East River, with shells being shot from five barges in a televised, choreographed spectacle.

This year, crowds will be welcome to gather.

The show will be broadcast live on NBC as part of a two-hour special featuring the Black Pumas, Coldplay, OneRepublic, and Reba McEntire. The performers’ appearances were pre-recorded from around the country in front of live audiences.

Last year, because of pandemic restrictions, there were a series of shorter fireworks shows in the days leading up to the holiday, with the locations kept secret in advance to keep people from congregating.

The annual spectacle of gluttony that is the Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest also once again welcomed live audiences to watch the epic chowdown in Brooklyn. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut topped his own record by downing 76 franks and buns in 10 minutes in the men’s competition, while Michelle Lesco took the women’s title by eating 30 3/4 wieners and buns.

The event wasn’t quite the same as usual. Instead of being at Surf and Stillwell avenues, just off the Coney Island boardwalk, this year’s competition was held nearby in a minor league baseball stadium, Maimonides Park. Spectators were asked to register for free tickets in advance.

Last year, though, there were no spectators allowed as Chestnut ate a then-record 75 hot dogs and buns.

He said Sunday that hearing the fans again helped propel him to victory.

“They kept pushing me. They didn’t give up on me,” he said in an ESPN interview. “Even if I was uncomfortable, having everybody cheer me and push me, it made me feel good.”

Landmarks around the state, from the World Trade Center’s centerpiece tower to Niagara Falls, were to be lighted in red, white and blue to mark Independence Day.

“If the last 16 months has reaffirmed anything, it’s how precious life is and how vital liberty is to our identity as New Yorkers and Americans,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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