Wienermobile Job Drives Alumna on Career Path


After crossing the stage and getting her degree, Laura (Zyk) Holloway (’98) did what a lot of new college grads do and hit the highway for a nice, long road trip. What made her experience unique was her ride of choice – a 27-foot hotdog.

The iconic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is scheduled to appear in the Homecoming parade Oct. 21 and be on display at Bolognafest in downtown Kirksville later that afternoon. Holloway is one of the select few people who know what it’s like to get behind the wheel and drive this piece of moving Americana all over the country. More than just a fun after-college job, Holloway’s time as a “hotdogger” propelled her on a career path in marketing and public communication.

Each year, only about 20 individuals earn the honor to operate the Wienermobile. Holloway’s path to snagging a coveted position came through an experience while earning her degree in communication with a concentration in journalism.

“I decided to write an article for the Truman Detours publication, which gave me the opportunity to meet with and interview current hotdoggers and Oscar Mayer Wienermobile staff, learn more about the position and ultimately apply,” she said.

At the time, Oscar Mayer received more than 1,200 applications annually. Through her research for the Detours piece, Holloway learned it was important to apply in a creative manner, and that hotdoggers are trained to use puns when dealing with the media.

“I tried to make sure my cover letter was franktastic in order to cut the mustard,” she said.

Before being turned loose with the Wienermobile, all new hires attend Hotdog High, a two-week intensive training program to learn skills such as working with media, conducting special events and driving an oversized hotdog. Holloway was hired specifically for a program called Share the Smiles, which worked with local food banks in each visited community. While the skills she learned helped in her role with Oscar Mayer they have also come in handy throughout her career. Holloway has worked in multiple marketing and communications positions, including the Missouri Division of Tourism, the Missouri Department of Transportation and most recently with the Missouri Municipal League. In her current role, she is the editor of Municipal League’s member magazine, and she coordinates communications to assist local elected officials and staff with local government resources, state and federal advocacy, and training/networking events.

“An unexpected bonus was how relaxed job interviews have been over the years. Most employers see this on a resume and it becomes what they are most anxious to discuss,” Holloway said. “The experience prepares you for all aspects of interacting with media, marketing and working with the public. You work with your team of hotdoggers, who are both your co-workers and family, for likely months on end. This means you must be successful at communicating, staying flexible and maintaining a great attitude.”

Sometimes those communication skills might be as simple as waving to a stranger when driving through a new town.

“It was always the most fun to see someone on the street light up, from small children to kids at heart,” Holloway said. “So many people wave and smile while you drive down the road. I remember it seemed strange when I would be in a normal car and no one was waving.”

Holloway has no idea how many miles she logged driving the Wienermobile during her nine-month stint. Most of her travels took place throughout the southeast and Midwest, with some trips are far north as New York. Ironically, her journey across the country ultimately helped her appreciate things closer to home.
“While travel is such a great way to gain new perspectives, we should not underestimate how much we can learn in our own communities and how a simple conversation can bring you a new perspective,” Holloway said. “It’s so important to be open to everyday conversations and experiences around you, and just learn to enjoy people for who they are.”

In preparation for National Bologna Day, the city of Kirksville will celebrate Bolognafest from 3-5 p.m. Oct. 21 downtown. In addition to free bologna and fried bologna sandwiches, there will be booths featuring games, prizes, balloons and face painting. A vintage Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, similar to the one Holloway drove, will be on display.
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