NILES - At 60-dogs long, 24-dogs high and 18-dogs wide, the Wienermobile was the hottest dog in Niles on Sunday.
''It's neat, I've never seen anything like that,'' said Kandi Gould of Niles after having her photo taken in front of the massive, rolling hot dog. ''It's different.''
The iconic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was a late addition to the Harry Stevens Hot Dog Day - its appearance wasn't confirmed until about a week before the event - dedicated to Stevens, the Niles man who is credited with inventing the hot dog, the baseball scorecard and the drinking straw.
Visitors were in line to get their photo taken with the Wienermobile, some placing their head through a hot dog cutout. Each child left with a miniature Wienermobile whistle.
Stephen Hays, one of the two Hotdoggers who drive and operate one of the six Wienermobiles in the fleet, said the vehicle draws visitors every place it stops, even while gassing up.
He and his partner Hotdogger, Alexandra Connett, both recent college graduates, also are graduates of Hot Dog High, a multiple week course put on by Oscar Mayer at its Madison, Wisc., headquarters, where they and 10 other Hotdoggers, in part, learned how to drive the Wienermobile.
Ralph Achten of Austintown, left, holds Darla, while Achten’s wife, Shawna, dresses the dachshund before the best-dressed dog contest. Photo by Ron Selak Jr.
''I can't think of a better job right out of college,'' said Hays, a recent graduate of the University of Missouri. ''You get to travel around the country in a 27-foot long hog dog, everybody is happy to see you.''
Other activities Sunday included a parade, a contest to see who had the best hot dog dressing, cornhole tournament and contests involving Dachshunds, the short-legged, long-body dog more commonly known as ''Wiener'' dogs because of their resemblance to a hot dog.
For them, there was a best dressed contest and Hot Diggity Dog Wiener Run.
Born in London, England, in 1856
Moved to Niles in 1882; lived at the corner of Crandon and Robbins avenues
Credited with inventing the hot dog, the baseball scorecard and the drinking straw
Died in 1934
Shawna and Ralph Achten's Dachshund - Peanut - took second place in the best dressed contest. Peanut also finished fourth in the wiener run.
''I won't go to any other breed again,'' said Shawna, who with Ralph, owns four Dachshunds.
''They just have so much personality,'' said Ralph, of Austintown.
Jessica Parker, of Niles, who attended with her husband, Tom and their children, Tucker, 16; Dalton, 14; Chance, 10; Celest, 8; and Chandler, 8 months; said the event ''was pretty nice.''
''With a big family, it's hard to find things that are cheap,'' she said as Chance was getting his face painted for only 50 cents at a Relay for Life tent.
The day was put on by the Niles Avenue and Main organization, which formed about three years ago to bring attention to the downtown area around Robbins Avenue and Main Street, said one of the founders, Shawn Crank, a city policeman and owner of the C.O.P.S. Driving Academy on Robbins Avenue.
The nonprofit agency also helps out in the community, like for instance, buying school crossing guards rechargeable flashing stop paddles.
''Whatever we get, we try to give back to the community in some way,'' Crank said.
Sunday's event was in honor of Stevens, who was born in London, England, in 1856 and moved to Niles in 1882.
According to various accounts, when it was cold at baseball games, Stevens sold hot dogs and was soon dubbed the ''the Columbus of the frankfurter'' for his successful concocting.
Stevens also became interested in baseball and on a whim bought the rights to publish a team's scorecard for $500. He was able to sell $700 worth of ads for the program, Spano said.
Stevens died in 1934 at age 78.