“Oh, look at that, it’s the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile!”
Two excited women race across the parking lot of Reid’s Supermarket on Preston Avenue yesterday and marvel at what appears to be an enormous hot dog on wheels—they immediately begin taking selfies.
Isaac Wilker is one of two recent college graduates who drives one of eight Wienermobiles around North America to spread goodwill and hot dogs. The title on his business card reads: “Hotdogger.”
“It’s been nothing but wonderful. Frankstasic,” Wilkerson says. “We’ll drive from one city to the next, that could be as much as a 16-hour drive. Usually Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll have off days. I think my favorite perk of being a hotdogger is that the Wienermobile is our personal vehicle as long as we don’t have scheduled events. …We saw the Shenandoah mountains yesterday.”
Lady Borgia, a local burlesque dancer and hairdresser at Moxie Hair Salon, walks up and peers through the door into the spacious interior.
“Oh, it’s really nice in there! I had to come see it,” Borgia says. “The Wienermobile is an icon.”
The first Wienermobile was built in 1936 by Oscar Mayer’s nephew, Carl G. Mayer. A series of replacements have been custom-built and launched in the 80 years since. The current models feature V8 engines, a sausage that is wider than ever before and a horn that plays 21 different versions of the Oscar Mayer jingle.
All of the “hotdoggers” are recruited as college seniors for a one-year tour of duty.
“It’s a very competitive position,” Wilker says. “You definitely have to cut the mustard…they had more than 1,200 people apply for 12 spots.”
“We’ve done grand openings for grocery stores, we’ve done fairs, festivals and parades,” Wilker says. “People have invited us into their homes. We like to explore areas like small towns where people might not expect something like that. …It’s very much a positive thing. People definitely want to talk with you and speak with you when you’re doing this.”
The constant flow of passersby bears that out. Nobody walks past the Wienermobile without a closer look and usually a selfie.
Wilker and the other hotdoggers find themselves eating a lot of hot dogs in this line of work.
“I haven’t gotten tired of them yet,” Wilker says. “We were on a morning television program in Columbus, Georgia, a few weeks ago and I think I had six hot dogs before 11 in the morning. …I think I’ve heard about every sort of topping imaginable on top of a hot dog. We’ve had people say mayonnaise and ranch. Some people put guacamole on them…they put more guacamole than hot dog, really. They just slather it on.”
Borgia smiles and takes one last look at the Wienermobile, which was in town for the day. “I’m really glad I came to see this. Hotdiggitydog!”