Hotdoggin’ it

Photographs courtesy Kraft Foods and Lisa Rosenblum

If you love a playful spirit – and more than a few puns – then you’ll love hearing about Lisa Rosenblum.

The New Rochelle native is happy to “meat” you, signs her emails “with relish” and goes by the nickname “Lots of Ketchup Lisa.”

It’s not a case of quirkiness, but rather a sign of just how much the 23-year-old embraced her just-completed first job out of college.

Rosenblum was among the select few chosen to spend a year behind the wheel of the Wienermobile, that oversize icon of the American road.

A traveling promotion for Oscar Mayer products, Wienermobiles have been on the road since 1936. Current editions are built on a Chevy chassis and covered in fiberglass.

As an official Oscar Mayer Hotdogger, Rosenblum served as one of just 12 brand ambassadors traveling across America beginning in June 2012.

Her year on the road took her to 22 states – her territories were the Northwest and Southeast – where she turned more than a few heads at events ranging from barbecue festivals to road races to charity events.

“You never know who you’re going to meet on the road,” she says. “Every day is a different story.”

By early June, the New Rochelle High School graduate was back in her hometown for a few days, taking time to fill WAG in on some of those tales from the road.

But first up, she shares with a laugh during a morning chat, has been adjusting to life after the Wienermobile.

“Some people have never seen a 27-foot-long hot dog before,” she says. “Someone’s always waving at you and honking so you feel like you’re driving in a parade all the time.”

But not anymore.

“Now, no one cares about me,” she says with a mock sigh. “With the Wienermobile, you’re kind of a celebrity.”

But it was far from a fluff job filled with nothing but photo ops.

That was clear from the start, when local corporation Oscar Mayer came to recruit on her campus, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I had no idea this was a real job,” Rosenblum says.

But she found out quickly – and knew it was something she’d like to try.

The chosen dozen were selected from more than 1,500 applicants, teamed up in pairs to drive the six Wienermobiles on the road. Each year, Oscar Mayer recruits from college campuses to find soon-to-be graduates who “cut the mustard.”

Rosenblum, with her varied background and the required “appetite for adventure,” fit the bill.

She was soon to graduate with a marketing degree from the Wisconsin School of Business, also having studied acting. Time trekking through and studying in Europe, plus experience as a bartender and as a founder of a business fraternity on campus all gave her the edge.

The job, a paid-gig billed as ideal for those with bachelor’s degrees in public relations, journalism, communications, advertising or marketing, offers plenty of on-the-job experience that translates to any field.

Two weeks of training at “Hot Dog High” gets the Hotdoggers ready for their new roll, um, role.

Hotdoggers have their routes plotted out for them, but they are in charge of securing media coverage and arranging additional appearances around their main events at each stop. They travel in teams of two, switching partners and regions after six months. Bosses fly out for on-the-road support, with a schedule that accommodates holidays and time off as well as team meetings back in Madison.

Along the way, the Hotdoggers do take photos with people (and their dogs, with Dachshunds a favorite, Rosenblum notes), talk about their experiences, play games, give out collectible Wiener Whistles and contribute to the Hotdogger blog (Rosenblum’s entries ranged from “How to Wash the Wienermobile” to “Buns of Fun in San Frank-cisco”).

Weeks included a travel day, four work days and then two free days.

“We get to be tourists,” Rosenblum says, with favorite experiences including visiting Multnomah Falls in Oregon and attending the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Another highlight was visiting a relative in Florida.

“My grandma lives in Miami, so I drove the Wienermobile to her apartment,” she says.

Rosenblum had strong support, in fact, from her whole family, including parents Jeff and Magnolia and older sister Rena.

“Some parents aren’t as supportive,” she notes with a laugh. “(They say) ‘You went four years to college to drive a big hot dog around?’”

But Rosenblum was the recipient of care packages from the family, as well as support from the network of Hotdogger alumni around the country who offered everything from advice to home-cooked meals.

Also encouraging was the steady stream of excited admirers.

“I didn’t realize how much a brand could have an impact on a person or a family.”

And yes, the Hotdoggers did let them take a peek into the famed vehicle.

The door, she says, goes up “like a DeLorean” and then people would see everything from a flat-screen monitor to a closet.

But no kitchen, as samples are not part of the plan, though Rosenblum says she is a fan.

“I do eat hot dogs,” she says, adding that part of the Hotdoggers’ job is to spread the word so they were helping promote one of Oscar Mayer’s newest products, bacon hot dogs. It might sound decadent to some but as Rosenblum reminds, “We say everything in moderation.”

Looking back at her time on the road, Rosenblum says it was the perfect mix of fun and business.

“It’s definitely good to have it in your portfolio,” she says. “When it’s on your resume, it’s such a good talking point.”

Rosenblum has already secured her next assignments, though.

This summer, she is teaching cooking and baking at the Pennsylvania sleep-away camp she used to attend. Then, the adventurer makes a big move to Chicago and a position at Red Frog Events. The forward-thinking event-planning company allowed her to defer her start date once she got the chance to hit the road.

And Rosenblum again showed what made her a perfect choice for the job when WAG wondered how hard it was to drive the Wienermobile.

“It’s actually not too bad,” she says. “The hardest part about it is finding parking. We don’t want to scratch our buns.”

To follow the latest Hotdoggers on the road, or to read the archives, visit hotdoggerblog.com.

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