Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Riding the sausage express: Life aboard the Wienermobile

Mobile meat machine spreads joy and cheer; promotes frankfurters

The thick flurries of wet snow fell without mercy on a cold Wisconsin winter morning. Students swaddled in wool scarves trudged through slush and mud, leaning headfirst into the freezing sleet.

Cutting through this icy wasteland, a beacon of hope emerged.

They say divine revelations take many forms. This particular angel manifested itself in the form of a 27-foot-long fiberglass hot dog on wheels.


Created more than eight decades ago as a promotional vehicle for The Oscar Mayer Company, the Wienermobile spends its days gliding cross-country, handing out Wiener Whistles, blasting the signature wiener jingle and spreading sweet wiener love. Sighting the speedy sausage is cause for celebration — only six of the mobile morsels traverse America’s highways, so catching a glimpse of the vehicle is a rare feat.

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is no ordinary sausage. Packing a GMC V8 engine, the vehicles are custom-built in Santa Barbara, California and enjoy the finest trimmings available for a wheeled wiener. The shining fiberglass hull covers a spacious interior, complete with retro bowling-alley carpet, ketchup-and-mustard-patterned floor mats and seats, extensive hot dog embroidery and a sky blue vinyl ceiling. The vehicle seats six passengers, and comes equipped with a massive flatscreen television and a driver-operated loudspeaker system.

The vehicles migrate to Madison after manufacturing, where they meet their sausage pilots. Known as “Hotdoggers,” these wiener chauffeurs are recent college graduates from across the country. In Madison, the Hotdoggers attend “Hot Dog High,” a two-week training program that prepares recruits for spending the next year of their lives inside a large sausage.

Even though Madison’s Oscar Mayer plant is shutting down, the training program will continue in the city, Hotdogger Liz Skretkowicz said.

Shutdown of Madison’s Oscar Mayer plant came as ‘shock’ to employees

Measuring in at 60-hot-dogs long and 24-hot-dogs tall, maneuvering the Wienermobile is no simple task. Though it doesn’t require a specialized drivers license, Hotdoggers learn advanced driving skills from the Madison Police Department, going through the same training program officers use for patrol vehicles.

Oscar Mayer doesn’t rule out applicants because of their majors, Skretkowicz said.

“They mostly just look for people who want to travel, like talking to people and like making people smile,” she said.

It takes a special sort of person to dedicate a year to driving coast to coast with the company of just one other Hotdogger, living out of a suitcase and spending around 340 nights per year in hotel rooms, accomplishing meaty objectives ranging from spreading sausage spirit at military bases to delivering a lifetime supply of Lunchables to San Francisco 49ers running back Mike Davis.

Hotdoggers represent the Oscar Mayer brand through TV and radio interviews, and appearances everywhere from grocery stores to golf course fundraisers. But their most important objective is bringing hot dog happiness to the common folk.

“Having the ability to bring a smile to somebody’s face just when you go and get gas or when you’re driving around campus is my favorite part of the job,” Hotdogger and UW alumnus Donald Knoelke.

A traveling public relations firm, there might be no better way to gain a year of business and marketing experience, while gaining a competitive salary and seeing every corner of the country through a broad wiener windshield.

An entire year of driving the Wienermobile presents countless challenges and an immense amount of time for self-reflection. Skretkowicz and Knoelke were grateful for the personal growth prompted by their position.

“This is the job I’ve had that’s taught me the most about myself as a person in addition to professional experience as well,” Skretkowicz said.

Though a Hotdogger’s path is steep and challenging, the lessons it yields are invaluable.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the surname of Hotdogger Liz Skretkowicz. 

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