My name is Rob Merlino and I am The Hotdogman. I publish a website called Hot Dog Stories.
Hot Dog Stories is a website that features photos and videos of my visits to different hot dog establishments in Maine, Florida, Montreal, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Nevada (so far). In July of 2011, I gained national attention for my hot dog eating "tour." I ate a hot dog a day at a different venue every day in July 2011 to celebrate National Hot Dog Month. My "quest" was featured in The Boston Globe, The Metrowest Daily News, The Fall River Herald, WZLX Radio (Boston's Classic Rock), NECN TV, WCVB TV, UPI, NPR and countless other print, radio and electronic media. National Hot Dog Month 2011 was a huge success.
In 2012, the Hotdogman's National Hot Dog Month Tour will be bigger and better. I will expand the geographic footprint of the tour in search of hot dog joints of all kinds, from the iconic to the smallest cart at the side of the road in Somewhere Town, USA.
This year, in addition to the daily videos and photo spreads shot at each venue, I want to produce a 60-90 minute video documentary of the journey and write a book about it. The book will feature more in depth interviews with each owner and customer and more photos of the tour. I want to make this a yearly event as well.
As the saying goes, the show will go on with or without full funding. Last year my wife and I financed this venture out of our own pockets which limited the scope and production values. Even so, it was a success; we just want a better, more professional product this year. The closer we get to our goal, the further we will be able to travel.
Some people may think this is a silly idea, but hot dogs are a big part of American culture. The little hot dog cart at the side of the road is something many people simply cannot resist. Each hot dog cart operator is a business person with a story to tell. Hot dog cart operators represent what is best about America: independence, autonomy, individualism, and the spirit of hope. I want to delve into the circumstances that brought each small vendor into the hot dog business. There are/will be many tales of corporate downsizing and people in search of their own piece of the American Dream.
The older, iconic establishments (one has been in business since 1890) we'll visit represent a fading past that it equally important on the American landscape. In this era of big box stores and chain restaurants, the hot dog joint remains a largely independent, local enterprise. This is due to regional tastes and the allure of things from our past. The owner of George's Coney Island in Worcester, Massachusetts- an establishment in business since 1918- said it best: "we represent a sense of familiarity and stability in an ever changing world." That's poetic. These iconic businesses show what can be done to create success in an independent business and how the American Dream manifests itself over several generations.
We will endeavor to capture the spirit of the hot dog joint and what it represents to American culture in each video, the documentary film, and the book. We will have fun doing it too. The most funny and poignant moments from each visit usually come from customers- I always like to catch people in the act of being themselves.
We will also talk about the hot dogs. Me and my team will sample hot dogs at each place and offer our "frank" opinion on the culinary uniqueness of each hot dog eaten. Different hot dog brands, interesting toppings, preparation methods and regional tastes will be examined and each joint will be hoping for the Hotdogman's seal of approval-"two thumbs up."
When woven into a 60-90 minute film and a book, our goal is to offer a fun but insightful look at Americana through the eyes of hot dog lovers everywhere.
There will be at least two additional short videos associated with this year's quest as well: a "bloopers and out takes" video and a video where I collect answers to the age old question: "do you put ketchup on your hot dogs?"
What We Need & What You Get
On the 2011 tour, we were limited to visiting hot dog joints fairly close to home (greater Boston). We are expanding the geographic footprint of the tour to four states this year to get a broader epicurean and cultural cross section for the film and book. More travel means more expenses. We'll need a lot of money for gas, tolls, meals and lodging as we meander through the back roads and broad boulevards of small towns and big cities.
I have secured production resources and new camera equipment from a previous round of funding and I have a videographer (team member Drew Bennet) accompanying me on the tour, so production values will be greatly enhanced.
We have some promotional items for the tour- tee shirts, hats, free products etc. for ourselves and participating patrons, but we could always use more. In lieu of a cash donation, if you have hot dog related "swag" to donate, we will gladly bring it along with us and hand it out.
Basically, we have most of the bases covered, but we need gas money! We will have two cars driving all over New England all month- it's an expense we need help offsetting. Last year, it cost about $2,200 in gas and travel expenses to get the tour done. This year, it will be more.
What the funder will get, besides an expanded knowledge of where to find the best hot dogs in a given region, is a host of perks, exposure and goodies. This is a great vehicle for a sponsor to gain a big bang for their marketing buck. Daily news stories on radio, TV and in newspapers plus two blog posts per day guarantee a sponsor will get tons of visibility for themselves, if they so desire. If you have a product or service that appeals to hot dog lovers or hot dog vendors, supporting this project will put you in front of that audience for an entire month at a fraction of the cost of any other marketing endeavor. What would it cost for a daily newspaper, radio AND TV ad for an entire month? Much more than any of the sponsorship options to the right, that's for sure. Or you could just help us out because you like what we're doing!
Our goal with this project is that it will be the first in a series of video documentaries that catalog, document and celebrate the all American Hot Dog Joint. Future plans include regional tours in different cities around the country where we seek out the most iconic and funky hot dog joints. Certainly being a part of a project that celebrates the hot dog and Americana is something many people will want to get involved in, but extra incentives aren't bad either! See the perks for more info.
Other Ways You Can Help
Even a dollar or two will help get us to our goal, but if you can't give a lot you can help us by spreading the word. If you own a hotel/motel in the Wells or Old Orchard Beach, Maine area, we could use some MID WEEK accomodations. Post this page on your facebook wall, tweet about it, blog about it. tell a friend in the news media, talk about it at a party- just spread the word! Thank you and be on the lookout for our film and book around Christmas time.