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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile visits UF on hotdogger recruitment tour

The iconic hotdog on wheels is hosting a virtual information session Tuesday

<p>Molly Swindall, left, and Maggie Thomas, right, two of the 12 hotdoggers of Class 33, arrived at UF in the Wienermobile to recruit the next class of hotdoggers.</p>

Molly Swindall, left, and Maggie Thomas, right, two of the 12 hotdoggers of Class 33, arrived at UF in the Wienermobile to recruit the next class of hotdoggers.

If they relish the opportunity to make people smile, are ready for life on the road and bring a smile that sizzles like a hot dog fresh off the grill, some UF students could end up the lucky winners – or, in this case, wieners.

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, a 27-foot-long hot dog on wheels, made its way to campus to recruit the next class of “hotdoggers,” brand ambassadors who travel the country for a year in the iconic vehicle. Applications for the next generation are open, and a virtual info session will be held today at 5:30 p.m. to divulge all the details of bringing “miles of smiles” to families everywhere.

For the past 33 years, recent college graduates have hit the road to promote the cold cuts company in the classic car. These hotdoggers travel to cities and landmarks nationwide to host events, provide press interviews and create content for Oscar Mayer.

Molly Swindall is one of Class 33’s lucky dogs. With her copilot Maggie Thomas, Swindall has spent the past seven months in the driver’s seat of the Wienermobile. She said working the billion-dollar brand is the best job in the world.

“We are getting to bring an American icon to people who have grown up with it, who are thrilled to see it,” she said.

Under her hotdogger name “Mayochup Molly,” Swindall operates what is essentially a “PR firm on wheels.” But it’s not a product that she and Thomas, or “Mustard Mags,” are promoting – it’s a smile.

A new hotdogger class is selected every year, and the position is a coveted one. Of the 4,000 to 7,000 yearly applicants, only 12 are selected for the role. Following today’s mandatory information session, applicants will go through several rounds of group and individual interviews before the class is finalized.

Graduating seniors or recent college graduates of all majors are the prime candidates, and though general applications are open to everyone, the Wienermobile rolls along to college campuses specifically to recruit the next class.

Thomas said the hotdoggers stop at UF every year, and some Oscar Mayer alumni have also been Gator grads.

“UF is one that we’ve just built a relationship with over the years,” Thomas said. “We’re really excited to be back and hopefully get Gators on the next hotdogger team.”

To “cut the mustard,” as they say in the business, applicants need a sense of adventure, a love for people and a particularly “bunderful” knack for wiener wordplay. Swindall and Thomas incorporate a plethora of puns in their banter, referencing the classics like “franks a bun” and testing out their own taglines.

Among the favorites for Swindall and Thomas: “bun-believable,” “nice to meat you” and “you’ve truly out-bun yourself.”

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“You have to say m-e-a-t after so they know you’re using it in a different sense,” Swindall said.

The puns are a perk, but the real joy of the job comes from the “frank fanatics,” Thomas said. Smiles, laughter and even tears of elation and nostalgia, these loyal fans flock to the colossal cold cut and are instantly struck by the sight.

“People have such a connection to the Wienermobile,” Swindall said.

During their tenure, Swindall and Thomas have come across opportunities and Oscar Mayer enthusiasts of all kinds. Swindall has given tours for the blind, hosted an event at the Grand Canyon and been interviewed by the New York Times.

One of her favorite stories, though, is the one about the woman who drove over 600 miles to see the meal on wheels. After taking a ride, proclaimed that it was the best day since she got married – in front of her husband.

Interacting with these colorful characters has been the experience of a lifetime, Swindall said. In bringing a smile to the faces of others, Swindall and Thomas are rewarded with ones of their own. Even through masks, their eyes shine with unabashed enthusiasm with every new person they meet.

“We might be making memories for them, but they are also making memories for us, every single day,” Swindall said.

Contact Heather Bushman at hbushman@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @hgrizzl.

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