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Hot Dog High graduates relish opportunity to drive iconic Wienermobile

Jessie Barndt was walking to class at UW-Madison one day when she saw her destiny drive by.

It was shaped like a hot dog.

Barndt, 23, followed the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile to a career fair where a recruiter persuaded her to apply for a job criss-crossing the country in the driver's seat of a 27-foot-long fiberglass hot dog.

"It's a huge deal," said the peppy Barndt, who is from Madison and got a degree in international business and management and human resources. "Growing up with this in my backyard, you always see the Wienermobile. It's just so exciting."

On Friday, she graduated from Hot Dog High, a three-week boot camp where she and 11 other recent college graduates learned how to maneuver the Wienermobile, promote Oscar Mayer products and beef up on puns like "Have a bun-derful day," and "Frank you very much."

The job is highly competitive. It turns out, everyone does wish they were an Oscar Mayer wiener — or at least they wish they could drive one.

More than 1,000 college seniors from across the country apply for 12 spots each year, according to Ed Roland, a marketing manager with Kraft Foods, the parent company of Madison-based Oscar Mayer. He wouldn't own up to the salary but said it's a competitive starting wage.

On the final day of Hot Dog High, the 12 hotdoggers — as they're called — took a driver's test administered by the state Department of Transportation and got some last-minute event prep. They'll head out to practice events on Saturday before fanning out across the country in pairs.

Parking can be a little tricky with the Wienermobile, so hotdoggers go through rigorous driving training where they learn to "parallel park on steroids," said Theresa Brenner, 22, of Cincinnati.

The Wienermobile fleet consists of six vehicles with license plates such as "BIG BUN" and "OUR DOG."

It has its perks, of course. Passing drivers frequently honk and wave, and the hotdoggers can respond with a friendly toot of the horn to the tune of "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener."

Brenner, a political science major from Ohio State, said she applied and got into law school, but she decided to spend the year as a hotdogger first.

It sounded too fun to pass up, she said.

"When I was offered this job, I figured law school would still be there in a year," she said.