Just when we need it most, the Wienermobile, Oscar Mayer’s smile-inducer-on-wheels, has rolled into the Twin Cities for a two-week visit.
“We bring happiness at a time when people are feeling down,” said Maggie Thomas, half of the team that is allowing Twin Citians to, ahem, relish the sight of a 27-foot-long frankfurter on wheels.
In today’s food truck era, logic might dictate that those flocking to the Wienermobile would have the opportunity to purchase an Oscar Mayer all-beef wiener, Smokies or even a Cheese Dog.
“We have people coming up who are ready to place their order, they’ve got their money out,” said Thomas. “We may not sell hot dogs, but we give away Wienermobile whistles and stickers, and they last longer than a hot dog.”
The company has been handing out those whistles for 68 years — yes, they are mini versions of the Wienermobile — and they’re a hot commodity.
“People go crazy for them,” said Zach Chatham, the other half of Team Wienermobile.
What is it like to drive this less-than-aerodynamic vehicle? (For auto aficionados, the Wienermobile visiting the Twin Cities is a 2012 model).
“It’s an adjustment,” said Chatham. “We train with retired cops on an obstacle course to prepare for the hot dog highway. I’ve never driven anything but a sedan, and I don’t have any issues.”
Chatham and Thomas have witnessed all kinds of responses from fellow motorists as they journey across the nation’s interstates.
“We’ve seen every reaction imaginable,” said Thomas. “People whip out their phones, and I can’t tell you how many good honks we’ve received. Filling up for gas turns into an event, because people never expect to see the Wienermobile drive up to the pump.”
The Wienermobile is the definition of Instagram bait, and the #wienermobile hashtag generates its fair share of social media action.
“There are all kinds of frank fanatics, the people who go crazy for the Wienermobile,” said Chatham. “And we love meeting them.”
This much of the Wienermobile’s Tour de Twin Cities schedule is set: on Friday, find it outside Mill Valley Market (1221 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Mpls.) from 5 to 8 p.m., and on Sunday, find it at Lendt’s Pumpkin Patch (6903 Wyoming Trail, Wyoming) from noon to 3 p.m.
“We’ll be scheduling more, just go to our website,” said Thomas.
The first Wienermobile hit the pavement in 1936 and has proved to be an ingenious and enduring marketing tool.
The company’s fleet now numbers six, and they’re constantly touring (“Our coast-to-coast wiener roast,” said Thomas). Chatham and Thomas were last in Madison — where all six Wienermobiles were gathered for a summit, surely a photo op for the ages — and they’ll be heading to Chicago next.
“Oh my gosh, this is the funnest job, ever, seeing the joy on people’s faces when they see a giant hot dog on wheels,” said Thomas. “It’s bun-derful. Zach and I feel incredibly lucky to represent the Wienermobile.”
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib