"Bringing miles of smiles for 75 years." That's how Danica Schmidt described her job as the driver of one of Oscar Mayer's seven Wienermobiles Sunday afternoon in the Blue River Park. Schmidt was behind the wheel of the 27-foot-long "Yummy"-plated machine, traveling from Oscar Mayer's Madison headquarters earlier in the day.
"Before that we were in Detroit and later in the week we'll be in Des Moines," said the "Hotdogger," what Wienermobile drivers are officially called. Schmidt said the Blue River Autumn Fest Parade was definitely one of the smallest venues she has been to since starting her one-year position in June.
Schmidt was driving the fifth generation of Wiener-mobiles, which evolved from Carl Mayer's original 1936 vehicle to the 11-foot-tall model seen in Sunday's Blue River parade. Built by Prototype Source in Santa Barbara, California-it features a 6-liter V8 Vortec engine, a voice-activated GPS navigation system and a horn that plays the Wiener Jingle in 21 different gen-res, from Cajun to Rap.
When asked if the Wienermobile is trailered to its many coast-to-coast destinations, Schmidt replied, "No, I do all the driving, turning heads wherever we go." She said "Yummy" currently has nearly a quarter million miles on it.
Wienermobiles have been cruising America's highways for 75 years straight, except during World War II when gas rationing kept them off the road. One of the early models featuring a Willys Jeep chassis is cur-rently on display at the Henry Ford Museum in suburban Detroit.
In 1988, Oscar Mayer launched the Hotdogger program, hiring recent college graduates like Schmidt to drive the Wienermobile around the country. According to the company's website, in order to become Hotdogger material, applicants must be "...outgoing, creative, friendly, enthusiastic, graduating college seniors with a big appetite for adventure." Schmidt certainly cuts the mustard in that department, as she greeted everyone with a smile and even joined her partner for a polka to the sounds of the Jim Gorman Trio, much to the delight of the Autumn Fest crowd.
Greg Kinney said he worked for nearly a year to bring the Wienermobile to Blue River. "I know someone who works at Oscar Mayer and after a lot of phone calls and e-mails we were able to make it happen," Kinney said. "It's a lot of work, but I think Boscobel's Fourth of July celebration would be a perfect venue for it."
They certainly loved it in Blue River, with dozens of people posing in front of the renowned Wienermobile for photographs and asking for Wienerwhistles.
"It's been a lot of fun," said Schmidt, whose one-year assignment ends next June. "We meet a lot of good people and spread a lot of smiles."