Saturday, July 29, 2006

The W. Va. Hot Dog Festival Happened


So, the long-awaited Second Annual West Virginia Hot Dog Festival took place today at Pullman Square in Huntington. It was a fun little event, well organized and jam-packed with stuff to do or observe. A 5K "Run for the Bun", a car show, kiddie rides, a pie contest, a hot dog-eating contest, a dog parade (the kind with four legs), musical entertainment and lots of other stuff made it the place to be in Huntington.

I only counted eight hot dog vendors. I thought there would be many more. The ones I recognized were:

  • Stewarts Original Hot Dogs
  • Hillbilly Hot Dogs
  • Sam's Hot Dog Stand
  • Bowincal's
  • Cowboy Catering
  • Frostop
  • Johhny Dogs
  • M&M Dairy Bar

Since there were only eight I was able to at least sample all of them, except for M&M which I boycotted because they were from Ohio. First, I have to admit I found it very difficult to order a hot dog because I would ask for "chili, slaw and mustard" and they would say, "You mean sauce, slaw and mustard?" Then I'd have to remember that I was in Huntington and apologize for asking for chili. But when I ordered at the next place I would ask for chili again. I could not get myself to say "sauce, slaw and mustard," the words just wouldn't form on my lips.

Of all the hot dogs I found Bowincal's to be the best. Their slaw was the only one that didn't taste like it had been made last year at a factory in China, but it was served very sparingly.

The prize for the biggest disappointment has to go Sam's Hot Dog Stand, who didn't even offer slaw as a topping. I was told that "it is too hot" for slaw, but that was a poor excuse; Everyone else had slaw, and the temperature was quite mild (upper 70's) most of the day. I'm sorry but having no slaw at The West Virginia Hot Dog Festival is akin to having no barbecue sauce at the Texas Rib Festival.

Cowboy Catering is noteworthy because they offered a giant-size dog in addition to their "dollar dogs," which is what they called their regular hot dogs. They also had a large selection of sauces (the kind that come from a bottle, not the stuff that's supposed to be called "chili") that you could dress your dog with.

Or course, Hillbilly Hot Dogs went to great lengths to bring their special unrefined atmosphere to the festival and had the best variety of hot dogs. Sonny, the Weenie Man and Sharie, the Weenie Wife were both there to work the stand.

Proceeds from the event go to the Joan C. Edwards Cancer Center, and the organizers and sponsors should get high marks for the effort they put into this event that benefits such a worthy cause.

But...

Is this the best that Huntington can do as far as hot dogs go?

Without trying hard I can name eight or ten hot dog joints in Charleston and other parts of the state that sell better hot dogs than ANY of the dogs I had today. My previous encounters with Huntington HDJ's have left me as equally underwhelmed. This leaves me with two different thoughts:

  1. It is just not right that Huntington hosts the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival. The hot dogs in Huntington are not West Virginia Hot Dogs. They are "Huntington Hot Dogs", or maybe "Tri-State Hot Dogs" but they bear little resemblance to the hot dogs eaten by the vast majority of West Virginians. Of all the hot dog joints in Huntington only Hillbilly Hot Dogs sells a true W.Va. Hot Dog, and they even call it by name on their menu. I know, I know; the Huntington folks took the initiative to create this event, and for that they should be congratulated, but they should consider renaming their festival and/or giving the name rights to someplace more appropriate.
  2. Perhaps it is folly to continue to try to compare West Virginia hot dogs with those served in Huntington. I am beginning to wonder if anyone in Huntington even knows how to make a decent hot dog. Perhaps they have never tasted a properly dressed West Virginia hot dog. I can think of no other explanation why this city that seems to pride itself on its hot dogs have such poor ones.

With so much strife in the world today I certainly don't want to add to it by causing even more discord between Huntington and Charleston, but they started it. They started it by presuming to have some superiority in the realm of hot dogs. They started it by having the audacity to host "The West Virginia Hot Dog Festival." It's just not right.

So I give up. No more comparing apples and oranges. I have recruited a Huntingtonian to do reviews of Huntington Hot Dog Joints from now on. I hope to have him set up to post soon and then he can judge Huntington's dogs based on Huntington criteria and Huntington taste buds. I'm sure he'll provide a perspective that I can't. Perhaps he can help to bring peace to our warring cultures.

This experience makes me wonder if this hot dog difference is perhaps some kind of indicator, some kind of other manifestation of the animosity that has existed between Huntington and Charleston for as long as I can remember. We in Charleston always thought it had something to do with the WVU vs. Marshall thing, but perhaps its actually something much greater.

Perhaps it's weenie envy.

4 comments:

Wabi-Sabi said...

We were there too. I missed last year, and definitely wanted to go this year.

On the positive side, it was great to see a good turnout. When I arrived just before 1:00 for the Hot Dog eating contest it was a madhouse getting to park.

On the negative side, I was VERY disappointed with the emcee/announcing for the hot dog eating contest. They should have had numbers so you could follow the progress and someone giving regular time updates.

The radio guy kept complaining about the crowd, but he nearly killed the event. Then when it came time to crown the winner they did nothing special. No countdown for who finished 2nd or 3rd, no sense of drama at all.

The winner was impressive at 17 HDBs, but that lady on the end (2 HDBs?!) and the announcer were HORRIBLE.

Also, my son enjoyed the inflatables and riding the mechanical bull, but they weren't as nice as some I have seen at other Huntington events.

Oh well, it was still a fun day. Sorry that our paths didn't cross while we were there.

Donutbuzz said...

Hey, our family was there too! We got there early and had to leave shortly after the weiner dog race began. We also attended the Cabell County Fair the other night, which wasn't nearly as cool as the hot dog festival.

I hope Charleston and Huntington can resolve this matter. I lived in Charleston for over three decades until we moved to Huntington last year. I love both cities and I would hate to see weenie envy lead to any further animosity between these cities.

The Film Geek said...

Although I've lived in Htgn for over 20 years, I grew up in central WV. And the Chili/Sauce thing still bugs me...it's chili, damn it! Chile!

I'm outta town and missed the festivaval, but your review was cool. Although I'm a bit sad about how Htgn seems to have carried off the event.

Chris James said...

Too bad it wasn't more like a Charleston event, which usually consist of 1) getting drunk on the Boulevard and 2) getting drunk on boats.