If you are involved in the meat, poultry or animal feed industry, then it’s extremely likely you know how valuable it is to attend the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE).

With all of the networking opportunities with professional contacts, the informational seminars that cover the latest industry issues, and all of the new products on display, it’s no wonder why so many agriculture professionals attend the event.

But did you ever stop to think about how attending IPPE in Atlanta can help you in your personal life away from work?

For me, my past IPPE experiences gave me inspiration as a Cub Scout leader.

I am one of the parent leaders of a small Cub Scout pack, of which my youngest son is a member. He is in his first year of Webelos. As we were preparing for this year’s Pinewood Derby, my son and I were thinking about ideas for our cars. For the last several years, we both entered a car.

He had already decided on a car that was inspired by the made-for-television "Smokey and the Bandit" movies from the early 1990s in which Brian Bloom portrayed the character originally played by Burt Reynolds. Meanwhile, I had to create something on par with the pirate ship I had hewn a year ago.

How about the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile?

So what type of car was I going to create? Here’s where the IPPE comes in.

During two previous visits to IPPE, I made it a point to check out the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, which was on display in one of the exhibit halls. I had heard of the famed vehicle in the past and had possibly saw a picture of it a time or two. My interest was piqued and I knew I had to set aside some time to go see it.

What I saw was an amazing piece of machinery inside and out, and possibly one of the most clever and creative advertising gimmicks I had ever seen.

Flashing back to those trips to Atlanta, I knew what I would create for the derby.

Creating a facsimile of the Wienermobile

The actual Wienermobile design is definitely inspired by the shape of Oscar Mayer’s signature hot dogs, but the contours and shapes of the actual car are quite tricky. As much as I love woodworking, I knew replicating the car in the time I had between getting my kit and race day, with all of my other obligations during that brief time span, would be a stretch.

So I decided on my own version of the Wienermobile.

First, I drew out a vertical design of a bun. Pretty simple. Then, I took a jig saw, and rounded off each corner to give it that bun-like appearance. After that, using a router, I set the bit in a way that would carve out the curves of the bun, while leaving in place the hot dog that sat inside. Once that was finished, I took the jig saw again, and cut the center of the bun to where the hot dog was located. 

To make sure that it didn't exceed weight requirements, I flipped the block over and hollowed out portions of the bottom with my router.

After that, it was just the simple matter of filing and sanding until I was satisfied with the shape and smoothness.

I could have went with the two main colors of the original Wienermobile, yellow and a hot dog orange color. But then I got to thinking, the color of a bun and a block of pine really aren’t that much different. I taped off the area that was to be the bun, and mixed a red and orange paint to come up with a believable color of a hot dog and put the paint on. The bun remained the original wood color.

After that, it was time to affix the Oscar Mayer logos. I went to the webpage of Oscar Mayer’s parent company, Kraft Heinz, and found the logo. I printed off two copies of the logo at a size that would fit on the side of the bun. From there, I cut the logos along the edges and used Mod Podge to affix it to each bun side.

Then, the wheels were added.

It may not appear exactly like the original Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, but this Pinewood Derby car captures the same spirit. | Roy Graber

Race day

When race day came, we checked in our cars, both of which were below the maximum allowable weight. So we turned our cars over and had some melted lead near the back of the car to give it a little more oomph. I had made a poor choice in the type of paint I used, and as a result, some of it was scuffed during this process, but I’m not complaining.

I got some good compliments on my car, but more gratifying was that my son was complimented on his. While I helped him with a little bit of the cutting, I’ve always insisted that my kids do their own work on their projects for Scouts, 4-H or school. What do you learn when you have your parents do your work for you just so you can win?

When racing time came about, and with a fresh application of graphite to our wheels, both Grabers won a few races, but we settled for middle-of-the-pack finishes in our divisions. We were fine with that.

The Cub Scout motto, after all, is “Do Your Best,” and we believe we did.

So now that we have one more year of Webelos ahead of us, I have to wonder, what other ideas can I get from IPPE?