In the first ten years of the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival, they’d never seen anything like it. Imagine a hot dog for which every ingredient for all the components—meat, bun, chili sauce, and condiments—were sourced from West Virginia farmers and prepared by local food processors.
Well, in the 11th year, it arrived: the all-WV hot dog.
The all West Virginia hot dog
In southern West Virginia the well-known WV-style hot dog is one dressed with chili, slaw, mustard, and onion (as is well documented at the official West Virginia Hot Dog Blog website).
I’ve never had a better tasting West Virginia-style hot dog than the one I had Saturday at the festival from the The WV Dog stand.
What a great job the WV Dog stand organizers did in promoting local farmers. I know it was not an easy project. At the WV Dog stand, you could order the traditional WV-style slaw dog or customize your dog any way you desired with kraut, pickle relish, ketchup, and more — all from WV food producers.
Several groups were key to effort
Many folks chipped in to help Huntington 30 Mile Meal, a local-food promotion and development group, put this project together. Project-lead Lindsey Good beamed with satisfaction at the great response their hot dog stand received. People lined up twenty- and thiry-deep all day to get a taste of the real West Virginia.
Of course 30 Mile Meal did not go it alone. Pulling the project together was a a big undertaking. Two of the biggest helpers were the Small Farm Center of WVU Extension Service and The Wild Ramp local foods store.
Food suppliers even showed up as volunteers to help at the stand. Randy Blatt, owner of Down Home Salads, made all the chili sauce, pickle relish, and slaw; and he also spent the day running the hot dog grill. That was a hot job on a hot summer day.
Gail Patton, executive director of Huntington-based Unlimited Future Inc., spent the day at the festival stand taking hot dog orders. She was among those instrumental in helping organize the all-WV hot dog effort.
Key ingredient producers
The hot dogs themselves were prepared in a couple of versions, which included pork from Mil-Ton Farms in Ona and beef from Call Farm in Milton and Working H Farms in Terra Alta. Processing was done by Nelson’s Meat Processing in Milton, SS Logan Packing Company in Huntington, and Working H Meat Market in Terra Alta.
Making the buns took whole wheat flour from Tom McConnell’s, McConnell Mill in Terra Alta, that was then prepared and baked by Brunetti’s Bakery in Kenova.
A partial list of the condiments included:
- Mustard from Uncle Bunk’s in Sistersville,
- Cabbage for slaw, cucumbers for relish, and onions from Gritt’s Farm in Buffalo,
- Slaw, pickle relish, and chili sauce from Down Home Salads in Huntington,
- Tomatoes from Gritt’s Midway Greenhouse in Buffalo,
- Ketchup produced by Mountwest Community and Technical College Culinary Institute in Huntington.
Huntington, a hot dog hot spot
Huntington has long been home to a bunch of popular hot-dog specialty restaurants. While they may not have sourced all their ingredients locally, a number of the local hot dog restaurant stalwarts participated in the festival, including Stewart’s Original Hot Dogs, Midway Drive-In, Frostop Drive In, Sam’s Hot Dogs, and Sheetz.
The Midway Drive-In, established on Huntington’s West Side in 1939, was recently featured on the Food Network program Guilty Pleasures.
Maybe the grand-daddy of hot dog joints, Stewart’s Original Hot Dogs was established in 1932 and is still going strong. Like some other hot dog joints, they are also famous for their root beer. Stewart’s owner was one of the founders of the WV Hot Dog Festival.
Another long-standing Huntington hot dog joint is Frostop Drive In. It is known for its curb-service where patrons typically order hot dogs and a frosted mug of root beer. Huntington seems to have more hot dog specialty restaurants than most other cities in the region.
A highlight of the Hot Dog Festival were the wiener dog races. Lots of folks brought their dogs with them, all sizes and colors. The races were especially fun for the many children in attendance. Profits from the festival support the Hoops Family Children’s Hospital at Cabell Huntington Hospital.
As usual, it was a light-hearted fun day at the WV Hot Dog Festival, but one made much more special by the presence of the all-WV-sourced hot dog.
These efforts go to show that even the most common of popular foods can be produced with locally-sourced ingredients. It wasn’t a simple project for 30 Mile Meal, but it definitely was worth the effort.
Huntington 30 Mile Meal is a “hyper-local” food project that focuses on increasing direct marketing between farmers/producers and food businesses. The Huntington area supports a growing number of local food outlets, both restaurants and food markets.