Oscar Mayer Wienermobile visits Chattanooga senior living center

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton/ Resident Jeannette Vallier, left, talks with Samantha Benish, right, one of the Wienermobile drivers, at the Rockbridge Oaks Senior Living Facility on Wednesday.
Staff photo by Matt Hamilton/ Resident Jeannette Vallier, left, talks with Samantha Benish, right, one of the Wienermobile drivers, at the Rockbridge Oaks Senior Living Facility on Wednesday.

A 27-foot-long hot dog on wheels rolled into the Holiday Creekside senior living center on Shallowford Road around lunchtime Wednesday.

Oscar Mayer wasn't delivering any of its famous hot dogs or lunch meats, but the company's Wienermobile did bring lots of smiles and laughter for local residents.

"I've eaten a lot of Oscar Mayer wieners in my life, but I've never seen anything like this," George Reed, a 92-year-old resident at Creekside, said after touring the giant hot dog shaped vehicle. "It makes me smile."

Such smiles are common among those who see the Wienermobiles either on the road or at one of the nearly 2,000 events each year where one of the six Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles visit to promote the company's famous hot dog brand.

(READ MORE: Kraft Heinz withdraws $143 billion bid for Uniliver).

For 87 years, Oscar Mayer has hyped its hot dogs with its unique vehicles, now staffed by three dozen company ambassadors who travel the nation handing out whistles to visitors and taking lots of photographs. The idea is to promote and advertise Oscar Mayer products in the United States.

The first Wienermobile was created by Oscar Mayer's nephew, Carl G. Mayer, in 1936.

"People remember their experiences with these Wienermobiles their whole life," said Karsen Idelman, who bills herself as Ketchup Karsen. "That's why this program has been so successful for so long. It's a part of American history."

Karsen, who grew up in Chicago, is one of this year's "hotdoggers" promoting Oscar Mayer hot dogs for the Kraft Heinz Co., which has owned Oscar Mayer since 1989.

 

Samantha Denish, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where the Wienermobiles are based, is another hotdogger picked from among the more than 2,000 applicants each year seeking to drive the Spevco cars across the United States.

"When I saw the Wienermobile on campus, I immediately said, 'I want to drive one of those,'" Denish recalled in an interview Wednesday. "I applied, and I'm a lucky dog because I got the job and now I get to have 'buns' of fun."

(READ MORE: Wienermobile pulled over in Wisconsin)

In June 2017, the company introduced several new hot-dog-themed vehicles, including the WienerCycle, WienerRover and WienerDrone, and earlier this year the iconic Wienermobiles briefly got a name change to "Frankmobiles," when the company sought to promote its 100% beef franks. But the Wienermobiles are now back under that name and making visits to schools, parks, senior centers and special events across the U.S.

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is in Chattanooga this week as part of a five-day tour of the area, including planned stops at the Mayfield Farm Park in Athens, Tennessee, on Thursday, at the Chattanooga Zoo on Friday, and at the McKamey Animal Center on Saturday. The complete schedule is listed online at timesfreepress.com/hotdogschedule.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.


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