AROUND OREGON: Iconic moment in Bend: Wienermobile visits last Blockbuster

BEND – Two cultural icons converged in Bend on Saturday when the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile parked in front of the last Blockbuster video rental store on Earth. The Wienermobile, the rolling orange and yellow symbol of Oscar Mayer hot dogs, pulled into the Blockbuster parking lot off Third Street to a crowd of about two dozen people taking pictures and singing, “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner.”

Some people were busy picking out movies inside the Blockbuster and were startled when the 27-foot-long hot dog on wheels parked outside.

“I saw it pull up through the window, and I just started yelling and ran to the window,” said Esty Pittman, who was visiting from Salt Lake City with her boyfriend, Jacob VanOteghem.

Pittman, 31 and VanOteghem, 30, stopped Saturday to visit the Blockbuster and had no idea the Wienermobile was scheduled to visit.

It was a flashback to childhood for Pittman, who remembers singing the Oscar Mayer song in the grocery store with her mother and looking for the Wienermobile on road trips with her family.

“My mom used to push me around the grocery store, and I would sing the Oscar Mayer song,” Pittman said. “This is my ’90s dream come true.”

Blockbuster was the third out of four stops in Central Oregon for the Wienermobile. The traveling hot dog made an appearance at Fort Rock Park in Sunriver on Thursday, in downtown Bend on Friday and will travel south again to the Village at Sunriver from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

The Wienermobile has been on the road since 1936. Today, six Wienermobiles travel around the country at all times.

The Wienermobile that came to Bend travels the West Coast and averages about 500 miles per week, said Tommy Derken, a “Hotdogger” who drives the Wienermobile.

Derken graduated from University of Southern California in May and hit the road in the Wienermobile in June .

Driving the Wienermobile is the perfect job for a recent college graduate, since it’s good public relations and marketing experience and a good way to see the country, Derken said.

“And you are a celebrity everywhere you go,” Derken said.

Derken and another Hotdogger, Nina LeBrun, spent Saturday handing out stickers and Wienermobile whistles to the crowd. The two Hotdoggers also took families’ pictures, signed autographs and helped children pose behind cardboard cutouts of hot dogs.

No food was served during the event, which is a common misconception, Derken said.

“We don’t sell hot dogs,” Derken said. “We just look like one.”

Bend resident Helen Guerrero-Randall came early Saturday and could not contain her excitement as she watched the Wienermobile park in front of Blockbuster.

Guerrero-Randall, a retired medical librarian for St. Charles Health System, always loved the old advertisements for Oscar Mayer on TV, but never had a chance to see the Wienermobile in person.

“I didn’t know they still had this going around,” she said. “They are actually still doing promotions. I’m thrilled.”

Guerrero-Randall enthusiastically sang the entire Oscar Mayer song, took a picture with the cardboard cut out and got Derken’s autograph.

She soaked in the nostalgia of Oscar Mayer and Blockbuster, where she still has her membership card to rent movies.

“It’s nostalgic in a really good way,” Guerrero-Randall said. “It’s that positive nostalgia. The endorphins are flowing.”

Ruby and Brewer Mottern stand with their two dogs Griz (behind cutout) and Luna as their mother, Jody Mottern, takes their picture Saturday while visiting the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile at the Bend Blockbuster. (Ryan Brennecke/The Bulletin)

This story published with permission as part of the AP Storyshare system. The Malheur Enterprise is a contributor to this network of Oregon news outlets.