LAGRANGE — Despite temperatures that hovered in the mid-20s Friday afternoon, hundreds of people dressed in parkas and covered in hats and gloves poured into the front lot at Miller’s Super Valu of LaGrange to get a quick look at the iconic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
The Wienermobile pulled into LaGrange about 2 p.m. Friday and quickly started drawing a large crowd made up of more adults than children. To celebrate, Miller’s employees broke out the gas grill and grilled up dozens of free Oscar Mayer hot dogs.
The Wienermobile’s crew of two came well dressed for Friday cold weather, wearing bright red Oscar Mayer insulated coats, hats, and gloves as they handed out Wienermobile whistles, postcards featuring the truck, and talking to visitors about what it’s like to drive the Wienermobile.
Amanda Boyd, one of the two “hotdoggers” aboard the Wienermobile has spent the last seven months touring the county in the hot dog-shaped truck and will continue to tour the middle part of the country for another five. She calls her job one of the greatest jobs in the world.
“I’m actually a full-time employee of Oscar Mayer and Kraft/Heinz,” she explained.
Oscar Mayer is more than just a brand name. In 1883, the real Oscar Mayer opened his first butcher shop in Chicago. Early company specialties were sausages and hams, soon followed by bacon and wieners. By 1929, the Oscar Mayer company had already grown to become a regional brand, and within a decade it would expand to become a national brand.
The first Wienermobile was unveiled in 1936 as a parade car. It was created by Carl Mayer, the nephew of Oscar Mayer. The role of the Wienermobile grew through the decades, and so did the marketing campaign built around them. Today, there are six Wienermobiles crisscrossing America crewed by 12 full-time hotdoggers.
Boyd said she’s traveled as far west as California and as far north as Montana.
“I couldn’t even count the miles we’ve traveled,” she said. “We’re always on the move. It usually works out that we’re in a different city each week.”
The Wienermobile is basically a cab-forward box truck with a large fiberglass hot dog and bun shaped shell. Hotdoggers spent two weeks at the beginning of their Oscar Mayer careers in Madison, Wisconsin, attending Hot Dog High learning how to drive the Wienermobile. As big as the Wienermobile is, Boyd said it is surprisingly agile.
“It’s 27 feet long – also measured as 60 hotdogs long – and 11 feet tall. And it handles really well. We like to say it’s very aero-dog-matic,” she explained. “It’s powered by a Chevy Vortec V8 engine, so it’s got some real power. We like to say the Wienermobile really hauls buns.”
To be a hotdogger, Boyd admitted, is to speak in a lot of hot dog puns.
She calls her time behind the wheel of the Wienermobile wonderful and says people always smile when they see the big truck.
“I’ve said it before, to my mom and friends, and it sounds a little cheesy, but this is the only job I’ve ever had where people are always happy to see me,” Boyd added.
“Even when we pull into a gas station on one of our off days, usually there’s a little crowd around. People are really happy to see it. It just brings joy to so many people. It’s an American icon and it has been for over 80 years.”
The iconic truck returns to northeast Indiana today, setting up shop at the Miller’s Super Valu store in Rome City from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.