Cruising along with the typical Mercedes and jacked-up trucks of Tuscaloosa traffic, a 27-foot long hotdog has rolled into the Druid City this past week.

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is in town recruiting hotdoggers – the company's punniest, most enthusiastic Wienermobile drivers – for a yearlong gig driving the iconic automobile across the country. Oscar Mayer hires 12 hotdoggers for a one-year contract each year, so only the best of the best actually get the chance to get behind the bun.

"We have between 4,000 and 10,000 applicants every year, so it's highly competitive," said Zach Chatham, a University of Alabama alumnus who currently works as a hotdogger. "If you're able to cut the mustard, you're able to reap a lot of benefits."

(MEAT) THE HOTDOGGERS

Chatham, otherwise known as "Zach n' Cheese," graduated from the University in May 2020 and immediately accepted a position as a hotdogger in July. Normally contracts begin in June and run for 12 months but with the coronavirus pandemic shuttering most business operations for much of 2020, Chatham's contract was slightly delayed.

Though he's a South Carolina native, Chatham's roots still run deep in Tuscaloosa. His father and grandfather both served as police escorts for Nick Saban and Paul "Bear" Bryant, respectively, and his father now runs the Twitter account and Crimson Tide fan blog, Roll Bama Roll. Chatham is in town with his hotdogging partner, Katie Ferguson, who graduated from the University of Missouri in May as well.

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According to Chatham, spending half of his "Coast-to-Coast Weenie Roast" with Ferguson has been a real treat.

"Your first half of the year, you start with a different partner in a different region of the country, so I started out the central region with Mustard Mags driving Big Bun, and I've had the honor to be with Ketchup Katie here for the second half in the midwest driving Wiener," Chatham said.

Ferguson, who's originally from the Chicago suburbs, said the day in the life of a hotdogger is always different from the day before, and she is having a blast being a part of an iconic ride.

"We go to a new city every week and we'll do probably three to four events per day in the city, as well as media interviews," she said. "So we're in the news, radio, television, stuff like that. The only consistency in this job is the joy that we bring people."

RECRUITING FOR THE RIDE

But, as the life of a hotdogger must be short-lived, Chatham and Ferguson are both getting ready to move on. After his contract expires, Chatham will be moving to Austin, Texas to work in creative marketing and branding while Ferguson is on her way to Denver, Colorado to start a career working in the outdoor industry.

So, who will captain the bun? Chatham and Ferguson want it to be you.

The duo is in Tuscaloosa this week recruiting graduating seniors to take on the challenge of being a hotdogger. They're hosting an informational session on Tuesday, March 2, for those who are interested to attend. Ferguson asserts that driving the Wienermobile is a breeze, and all a hotdogger needs is "a college degree, a driver's license and an appetite for adventure."

"You have to be outgoing, friendly and creative," she added. "You're meeting many new people every single day and you're also doing a lot of content creation and, you know, finding and planning events."

While Ferguson has "buns and buns of puns" and relishes using them, she emphasized that being a hotdogger is more than delivering miles of smiles – it's the gig of a lifetime.

"How often does an entry-level job out of college enable you to represent a multi-billion dollar brand and travel the country, all while being paid to do so?" Ferguson said. "Like, it's quite literally a dream job for the both of us and Oscar Mayer is an incredible company."

GET 'EM WHILE THEY'RE HOT

The duo added that while it's fairly simple to get folks interested when they have a giant hotdog for a vehicle, but once they started telling students that they could have a chance to represent the company, intrigue skyrocketed.

"The students have gone absolutely wild," he said. "I mean, it's the coolest opportunity that we've been able to have in our lives so far, except for graduating from the University of Alabama, of course. But it's the road trip of a lifetime with some great experience added on top of it, and I know that all the students are able to see the fun we have, the experience that we've gained, connections we've been able to build up, and that you can definitely tell that they can see the importance of how awesome this is."

After March 2, the hotdoggers are hitting the road again to recruit in a new city, so for those who may be interested, now is the time to inquire. To attend the information session, current UA students can search "Kraft Heinz" in their Handshake account for all the details.

To keep up with Chatham and Ferguson on the last leg of their Coast-to-Coast Weenie Roast, follow them on Instagram at @zachncheesin and @ketchinupwithkatie.

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