Hot Dog! Memorial Day Weekend official kick-off to wiener season

Jacob Lickers opened “The Wild Hog” hot dog cart on the corner of Fourth and Main Streets last week, just in time for the official hot dog season of summer to begin.

Memorial Day and hot dogs go together, well, like wieners and buns.

The first long weekend of the summer also is the official start of hot dog season. According to the American Meat Institute’s National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, 7 billion hot dogs will be consumed by Americans between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Sheryl Thompson, concession supervisor for Grand Junction’s Parks and Recreation Department, said 4,260 hot dogs were sold at the Junior College World Series last year.

The dogs will compete with an array of foods, including ice cream, funnel cakes, roasted corn and popcorn, and of course, peanuts. But it traditionally rises as the supreme champion of JUCO concession sales.

“I guess it’s just because it’s a tradition. Hot dogs, baseball and holidays always go together,” Thompson said.

“This weekend is going to rock,” said Kevin Mahoney, owner of the River Dogs stand, parked on the 600 block of Main Street in Grand Junction. Mahoney has served fresh dogs and sausages downtown for three weeks and expects sales to really pick up this weekend.

They’re just good — dog gone it!

Nobody can pinpoint what makes a really good hot dog, although aficionados have tried topping the 6-inch classic wiener with sauerkraut, onions, pickles, chili, peppers and a range of liquid condiments. Dogs are boiled, baked or deep-fried. Chances are there’s not a combination that hasn’t been tried in pursuit of the perfect dog.

“You’d be surprised to know,” Thompson said, “that most people just prefer ketchup.”

Last year, the JUCO concessions stand used 14 gallons of ketchup and only three gallons of mustard.

Another theory is it’s the quality of the meat that makes the finest wiener. The Wild Hog, a new hot dog cart on the corner of Fourth and Main streets in front of the Wells Fargo buffalo, sells only all-beef, natural-casing hot dogs by Boar’s Head Meats.

Owner Jacob Lickers said starting with high-quality ingredients makes his dogs the “best in town.”

Mahoney prides his River Dogs operation as being the “healthiest hot dog stand,” selling a pseudo-dog for vegetarians.

“Now they can eat carnivorously as well,” he said.

But, nobody could really put their finger on why a hot dog tastes so good in the summer.

“I’ve seen poor, the rich, the tall, the short and people of every color,” Mahoney said. “You know, everybody just likes a good hot dog.”

Slow economy, convenient price
The average cost of a hot dog, chips and drink is $5, making it easy for Americans to enjoy a tasty treat despite rough economic times.
Other news outlets across the nation have reported a rise in cart sales and vendor licenses. It seems when the going gets tough, Americans eat more hot dogs.
Mahoney and Lickers were nudged into street vending after losing their jobs because of the rough economy.
“Building has gotten slow around here, and there aren’t any jobs for framers,” the 33-year-old Mahoney said.
Twenty-three-year-old Lickers, a former oil and gas industry truck driver, said he bought his hot dog cart two weeks ago because he thought it would be a pretty simple business to get into. He’s learning it isn’t as easy as it looks.
Lickers must do all of his preparation, such as cutting onions, at The Business Incubator. And, he has to borrow his mom’s car because it has a hitch on the back to pull the cart.
Both men are fairly confident hot dog demand will withstand the rough economy.
Mahoney plans on “just wearing a hat and a jacket” in the winter to keep his business going year-round.


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