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Oscar Mayer Wienermobile visits Hinesville
The Wienermobile and the Little Link parked outside the Wal-Mart on Oglethorpe. - photo by Photo by Jessica Duncan
     On Wednesday morning, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile stopped in Hinesville for a 4-hour visit in Wal-Mart's parking lot. The crowds were small but, according to the "Hotdoggers" who drive the hot dog-shaped vehicle, some days are much busier than others. "At the last Wal-Mart [in Charleston, South Carolina], we had about 800 people," said John Woodbridge, one of a team of four "Hotdoggers."
     Several families came by to have their pictures taken behind wooden, hot dog-shaped cutouts, to view the Wienermobile, and to receive Oscar Mayer's famed red plastic whistles, but most were merely sidetracked on their ways in or out of Wal-Mart. "Yeah, it's sort of a surprise where we're going to be," said Sammi Park, another driver. "But Wal-Marts usually draw big crowds."  
     Those big crowds aren't only beneficial to Oscar Mayer; the company is using the allure of the Wienermobile to raise money for America's Second Harvest, a food bank network that is the nation's largest charitable hunger-relief organization. "Oscar Mayer donated $100 thousand to the charity in March," Woodbridge said.
      Also in March, Oscar Mayer celebrated its 125th anniversary with the introduction of the company's "Little Wieners," and the corresponding debut of the "Little Link" Wienermobile.
     "There are six Wienermobiles," Park said, "but only one mini-mobile. It's exciting for this area to see it because not everyone gets to."
     The Wienermobile caravan began its annual national road trip June 1 in Madison, Wis., but not before all four of its drivers went to "Hot Dog High" to learn about Oscar Mayer and to train in specialized driving.
     "They recruited us at our colleges," Park said. "They're looking for graduating seniors. You actually have to have a degree to be a 'Hotdogger.' "
     Each team of "Hotdoggers" is on the road for one year, taking the Wienermobile to different stores throughout the country. "It's a great way to travel," Park said. Paid travel though it may be, Park and her colleagues had to face a bit of resistance from their parents when they told them they'd be driving a Wienermobile for a year after they graduated from college. "My parents were shocked," Park said.
     "My parents were definitely taken aback, but after I put the ketchup and the mustard on it, they really relished the idea," Woodbridge punned.
      Driving the Wienermobile does come with its own set of rewarding experiences. "We met this little boy [in Cleveland, N.C.] who had just had his foot cut off by a lawnmower, so we gave him a ride in the Wienermobile, and it's like he almost forgot about [his injury]. He was bouncing around the whole time. Those are the days you call home about," Park said.
      From Hinesville, the Wienermobile headed to Jesup, and will be in Savannah tomorrow from 1-6 p. m. at the Wal-Mart on Montgomery Circle.

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