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West Virginia Hot Dog Festival brings the fun

Jul. 26, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Wiener dogs start your engines, it's time for the 9th annual West Virginia Hot Dog Festival Saturday at Pullman Square.

Full of fun contests including everything from wiener dog races to root beer chugging contests, the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival is a full day of free downtown family fun with live music and the best of Tri-State hot dog vendors.

The fest runs 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 27 with all proceeds benefiting the Hoops Family Children's Hospital at Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Since the festival began in 2005 to benefit the pediatric oncology program at Cabell Huntington Hospital, more than $130,000 has been raised for the children's hospital project fund.

Earlier this year, organizers of the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival -- John Mandt Jr., owner of Stewart's Hot Dogs, and Clear Channel Media and Entertainment in Huntington -- made a donation of $10,000 (from the 2012 fest) to the Hoops Family Children's Hospital at Cabell Huntington Hospital.

"This is one of the most anticipated events in downtown Huntington, and it is a day that we are proud of because of the awareness and money it raises for the Hoops Family Children's Hospital at Cabell Huntington Hospital," Mandt said in a release. "The Hot Dog Festival involves so many people in our community and it brings attention to this great cause."

Kym York-Blake, who helps organize the festival for Clear Channel (WTCR-FM, WKEE-100, Oldies 97-1, X-106.3, 800WVHU, 24-7 107.1, Fox Sports, 1230 and 1420 AM and home of iHeart Radio), said they try and find something for everyone in the family from a car show and bicycle rides to a KidZone, PetZone and lots of live music.

"There truly is something for everybody to watch or listen or participate and make them happy," York-Blake said. "Of course, we have the top hot dog businesses in the region coming together for one great cause."

Hot dog vendors include the Tri-State's oldest stand, Stewart's, which is 81 years old, as well as other iconic drive-ins, Frostop and Midway, as well as Sam's Hot Dogs and Charlie's Harley-Davidson diner.

Other vendors include: Rick's Lemonades, Randy Blatt's and Downhome Salads and Catering, now located off of Harveytown Road, and the new Barboursville bar and grill, Jug And Kilt that's bringing bangers and mash.

Marilyn Murdock, owner of the iconic Frostop which has been located across from Cabell Huntington Hospital since 1959, said the fest is a unique celebration of Huntington's hot dog community.

"It's a very unique experience to Huntington and we're thrilled to be a part of it and to be a part of Huntington's heritage," Murdock said. "There were a lot of reunions this past weekend, and Sunday morning I met with a bunch of people from my sister's class and they said if they could they would put one (a Frostop) in their town because nobody does hot dogs like Huntington and it's true. We have our own tastes in hot dogs and I happen to think it is better than any other place."

As always, and before the summer sun sets to broil, the fest kicks off in healthy fashion with a double fitness dip -- the Heiner's Bakery annual Bun Run 5K and Walk Your Buns Off charity walk that departs from 8th Street and 3rd Avenue at 8 a.m.

That's followed by the Buns on Bikes, a five-mile family-friendly bicycle ride organized by David Amsbary and a part of the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival since 2009.

It starts at 9:30 a.m. when it leaves Pullman Square with a ride to the Ritter Park Memorial Arch and back. There is a $15 entry donation for adults, $10 for children with no more than $30 for an immediate family member.

Registration will take place from 7:30 to 9:15 a.m. at Pullman Square. A rolling safety escort will ride along on the route. For more information, contact Amsbary at dda@bcyon.com or 304-638-8926.

At 9 a.m., contest registration begins for the bevy of contests that start at 10:40 a.m. with the All-breed Dog Costume Contest/Pooch Parade (3rd Avenue race track).

Other contests include the All-Breed Exhibition Dog Races (3rd Avenue race track) at 11:45 a.m., and at high noon, the almost famous West Virginia Wiener Dog Races and the $100 Dachshund Dash.

Afternoon eating contests include the Stewart's Original Hotdogs-sponsoreed Hot Dog eating contest at 2 p.m., followed by the Frostop Drive-In-sponsored Rootbeer Chugging Contest set for 2:20 p.m.

York-Blake, a long-time Dachshund owner and volunteer with Dachshund rescue, said the hot dog festival is unique in its embrace of the entire family, including the ones blessed with four legs.

"It is for the family and for a lot of people, the family dog and family cat is a family member," York-Blake said. "Obviously we can't have both dogs and cats together but we do have all breeds of dogs, and we are still hoping to hit that 150 mark for wieners. I still make 150 bandanas for the race, and I still have faith we will get to that 150 mark. I say when we get to the 150 mark we will be one of the nation's leading wiener dog races."

The fest will also flow with a day-long stream of live music.

Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, finalists from the 32nd annual TCR/Texaco Country Showdown will take to the stage at Pullman Square. Those Top 10 finalists include: Franklin Furnace, Ohio natives Bobby Dale Blanton and Eastern Ridge as well as Shaun Depriest of Ironton, Brent Christian of Ashland, Nikki Hall of Coal Grove, Lance Ross of South Point, Austin McCoy of Ona, and several Huntingtonians including Noah Frazee, Whitney Hodges and Becky Jarvis.

The winner of that competition goes on to compete in the regionals of the Texaco Showdown, whose top national prize is $100,000.