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The beloved Oscar Mayer Wienermobile rolled into South Philly to serve up smiles

Temple and Lincoln University grads were at the controls of the 27-foot-long hot dog. The original Wienermobile first hit the road in 1936.

Garrison Kearse, known as “Glizzy G,” dances in front of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile parked outside of the Walmart in South Philadelphia on Saturday.
Garrison Kearse, known as “Glizzy G,” dances in front of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile parked outside of the Walmart in South Philadelphia on Saturday.Read moreHeather Khalifa / Staff Photographer

In a world where differences and discontent can drive us apart, a symbol of joy and, perhaps, some minor indigestion, parked outside a Walmart to help bridge the divide.

Vegetarians on their way to the gym veered off to take selfies, along with people who eschew pork for religious reasons. It was the silliest thing they’d see on this Saturday morning in South Philly, and no one, it seemed, could avoid a smile.

“It’s not a sausage, honey, it’s a giant hot dog,” one woman said to her son as it rolled to a stop.

It wasn’t just any giant hot dog, it was “Odie,” one of six official Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles that crisscross the United States. The original Wienermobile first hit the road in 1936 and today it’s about as American as, well, hot dogs, a simple and absurd advertising gimmick immune to cynicism outside of Walmart.

“I don’t eat meat, but this is a national landmark,” South Philly resident Amelija Sorg said before going to Planet Fitness.

Odie’s two drivers, called “hotdoggers,” were trained to drive the 6.0-liter vehicle at a special boot camp in Madison, Wis., but both have local connections. Driver Allison “Allie Dog” Silibovsky graduated from Temple University in 2022, saw an ad seeking new drivers, and figured “why not?”

Fellow driver Garrison “Glizzy G” Kearse, who has a small tattoo of the Wienermobile by his armpit, is a York native who went to Lincoln University. He said driving the 27-foot-long hot dog isn’t as difficult as it appears. There’s no need for a special driver’s license and, because it sits so high, it’s relatively easy to see all the cars slowing down to take photos.

“I like to say this thing can haul buns,” he said.

Kearse and Silibovsky generally motor the meat through the South and were fresh off a trip to Orlando. Odie has no bathroom or beds. Silibovsky even drove the Wienermobile through Puerto Rico, via cargo ship.

“We just want to bring back that joy and spread smiles across the country,” she said.

Silibovsky’s parents paid her a surprise visit, driving down to see her from Long Island. They said they barely get to see her.

“We’re gonna get a cheesesteak and head back home,” said Silibovsky’s dad, Andrew.

Together, Garrison and Silibovsky danced with Walmart shoppers and handed out wiener whistles to kids. They serenaded a woman for her 90th birthday and broke out some classic Oscar Mayer jingles few people under 30 would know.

“It’s been a long time since I heard the Oscar Mayer song,” said North Philly resident James Brown, 74. “It’s a happy song. This thing is a real hoot.”

Multiple shoppers asked Silibovsky and Garrison for actual hot dogs — Brown wanted raw onions — but alas, the Wienermobile isn’t a food truck. They handed out coupons, instead.

“We’re only allowed to serve up smiles,” Garrison repeated several times.

Inside the bustling Walmart, a 10-pack of Oscar Mayer hot dogs stuffed with cheese was $3.97.

A bottle of Pepto Bismol was $4.98.