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posted: 10/11/2012 7:54 AM

'Miles of smiles' when Wienermobile stops in town

After all these years iconic Wienermobile draws a crowd

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  • The Wienermobile made a recent stop in Batavia and people immediately came to see the iconic promotional vehicle.

    The Wienermobile made a recent stop in Batavia and people immediately came to see the iconic promotional vehicle.
    Courtesy of Sammi King


Guess who came to dinner? It wasn't a politician, full of hot air. Although my guests did know quite a bit about the meatier issues of the day. They weren't Hollywood stars, but had celebrity status, nevertheless.

There was no red carpet, just an unadorned driveway. Yet, it was a big night for our neighborhood when they pulled in, arriving in a vehicle, measuring 24 hot dogs high, 60 hot dogs long and 18 hot dogs wide.

Hot dignity dog, the Wienermobile came to Batavia! Neighbors of all ages came out of their homes, not just to get the iconic wiener whistle but to have the opportunity to recapture a moment from their youth.

The first "moving hot dog" took to the streets in 1936, under the ad moniker, "Wiener on Wheels." Through the years, the Wienermobile took on new names and new styling.

When I was a kid, the Wienermobile came to town and word of its arrival spread faster than mustard on a bun. Kids from all over town hurried downtown to see the giant hot dog and get the free orange and yellow whistle.

I took my boys when they were young and the visit included a free hot dog.

"There is a separate food truck that handles the hot dogs, " said hot-dogger Deli Eliot. "Sometimes we work with them at bigger events."

Eliot, one of my son's former roommates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was traveling from the Tennessee State Fair back to the corporate base in Madison, Wis. He made the stopover in Batavia to see my son, Kevin, before Kevin leaves for his Peace Corps assignment in Azerbaijan.

Eliot is traveling across the country with "Anggie Dogg," a fellow hot-dogger from Lima, Peru. Both she and Eliot competed against 1,500 other recent college graduates for one of the coveted 12 hot-dogger spots.

"I thought it would be a great opportunity to see the United States and I don't even mind being on the road so much," Anggie said. "It is really 'miles of smiles' because everyone is so happy to see us."

If you think this job is a "snack in the park," think again. Hot-doggers go through extensive training, learning product lines, Oscar Mayer Co. history, public relations, crisis management and, of course, so many hot dog puns that you would think they would end up in a "bunitentiary."

Neither Eliot nor Anggie have any complaints about the job.

"It is so much fun to see the little kids get so excited about seeing the Wienermobile," Anggie said.

"Even the parents leave happy," Eliot added. "And when we are driving we get a lot of honks and waves."

Recognition on the road isn't without its risks.

"One time we were on the road and we got passed by a car staying close to us," Anggie said. "Pretty soon we saw this guy hanging out the side window trying to get a picture of the Wienermobile."

As a former corporate ad manager, I can see that these two hot-doggers are a public relations director's dream. They are excited to talk about "everything hot dog." They love having the opportunity to do this job and yes, they love spending time in the Space Age interior of the hot dog shaped vehicle. They quickly point out the ketchup walkway, the hot dog shaped dashboard, the condiment splattered carpet. They gush about a sound system to "relish." They point out the removable "bun roof."

When they honk the horn and the familiar, "I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener," plays for the surrounding neighborhood, the hot-doggers both smile bigger than the vehicle's smiling front grill.

They don't even seem to mind when the kids all toot their wiener whistles at the same time, making a sound that makes the neighborhood dogs howl.

"We love this job," Anggie said.

We "relished" the visit. It came with a "Side of Sighs," happy and content.

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