Wienermobile drivers relish the attention

Wienermobile
The Wienermobile is visiting Holmes Beach. - Tom Vaught | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – In these days of conspicuous consumption, a standout vehicle is a must, and one of the most outstanding sets of wheels around slowed traffic while parked in a local resort driveway.

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is a 27-foot-long Fiberglas bun cradling a hot dog that seats six in luxurious captain’s chairs with the corporate logo on them. The carpeting is a random design with yellow splotches representing a hot dog’s best friend – mustard.

Elise Johnson and Dominic Ricci are the pilots who make a living making sure everyone knows about their products.

Wienermobile couple
Elise Johnson and Dominic Ricci are enjoying their yearlong assignment driving the Wienermobile. – Tom Vaught | Sun

How did they get there?

“We responded to a recruitment drive while we were in college,” Johnson said. “I was at the University of Texas and Dom was at the University of Wisconsin.”

Johnson said when they were chosen from a large list of applicants, the company signed them to a one-year contract. They serve in one of six zones of the country. In six months, they change zones.

“I’m hoping to get assigned to the Southwest,” she said. “I would like to be in Texas.”

Their presence is vital to local promotional events. People and companies can hire them through their employer, and they appear and talk about their vehicle.

She said they were elated to get rooms in Cedar Cove.

“The beach is beautiful,” Ricci said Wednesday. “We hear it’s going to get cold in a couple of days and this is our day off so we’re going to spend some time there today.”

Despite the extra care they take to get the huge vehicle around in cities, Johnson said it’s a fun job.

“People honk their horns and wave all the time,” she said. “It’s a happy thing.”

“We drove a groom and his groomsmen to a wedding once, and they all loved it,” Ricci said.

What would they do when their year is up?

“I wants to get into the music industry, maybe in Nashville,” Johnson said. Ricci wasn’t sure, but he said he would enjoy this job until it ends.

According to the Oscar Mayer website, the first Wienermobile was made in 1936 by Oscar Mayer’s son, Carl. Over the years, the size changed. One was made taller because the company was making plumper hot dogs at the time. One model has a sound system that plays the advertising jingle in 21 different genres, including Cajun, rap and bossa nova. A Wienermobile is on display in the Henry Ford Automobile Museum in Detroit.