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Never let it be said that the folks who put on the Smoke On The Mountain state barbecue cookoff don’t go out of their way to help those who participate in the event.
On Tuesday, when word reached the event’s volunteer coordinator, Carlene Poole, that the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile had gotten into a beef with police, she mustered the courage to ride to the rescue.
Poole said she heard through a friend that the iconic vehicle had a run-in with police on its way to an appearance at the barbecue contest, which starts Friday in downtown Galax.
She and a friend burned up the road on the way to Hillsville, where the Wienermobile drivers were staying in a hotel.
On the way, Poole contacted a local lawyer to defend the drivers of the scandalous sausage, and he reportedly began working on a defense immediately.
Poole, who has volunteered with Smoke On The Mountain for four years, said she worked hard to get Oscar Mayer to send its flagship frankfurter to Galax, and couldn’t bear the thought of its drivers getting in trouble.
A frantic search led them to the Hillsville Post Office, where the 30-foot hot dog was parked.
“We’ve come to rescue you,” Poole told the startled drivers. “We heard you got a ticket!”
Driver Ben Kopish was taken aback. Turns out, there was a lot of smoke, but no fire.
The real story wasn’t as tasty as the rumor, which had plumped up with juicier details throughout the day like a frank in a frying pan.
Kopish and co-pilot Tara Oslick explained that they were pulled over by state police in Northern Virginia, who feared the Wienermobile was too heavy or too long to drive on the state’s roads. They didn’t even get a ticket.
They didn’t relish the thought of being stopped again, so they bought a triangle-shaped flag at Napa Auto Parts in Hillsville to hang on the back of the wiener, as required by law.
Oslick and Kopish thanked Poole for her efforts, and offered a tour of the Wienermobile. It’s set up like and RV, with rows of red-and-yellow seats and a painted squiggle of mustard down the floor’s center aisle.
A crowd quickly gathered at the post office, and locals grilled the drivers about the vehicle.
“Is this the o-fishul wienermobile?” Yes.
“Do you sleep in it?” No.
“Will you be cookin’ hot dogs?” No.
“Why are you here?”
Oslick explained that the vehicle was in town for Galax’s Smoke On The Mountain event, and will be parked downtown on Main Street Friday and Saturday.
She handed out dozens of official Oscar Mayer “Wiener Whistles” to kids and adults.
Kopish said Oscar Mayer has had a Wienermobile on the road since 1936, except during World War II. He estimates that their vehicle is a sixth-generation Wienermobile.
There are six of them in the U.S., traveling to events and festivals. Everywhere they go, a crowd gathers.
Kopish said 1,400 people apply annually to drive the Wienermobile, and only 14 are chosen.
The Smoke On The Mountain competition is sponsored by the Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Galax Smokehouse restaurant and the City of Galax.
Main and Grayson streets in the center of downtown Galax will be closed both days for the event.
On Friday, teams will be judged in sauce and the “Anything Butt” category for everything from beef to seafood.
Local amateur BBQ-ers will compete in the “Patio Porkers” division for a chance to enter the big leagues next year as professional teams.
On Saturday, the teams compete in such categories as whole hog, ribs and pork shoulder. The awards ceremony is at 6 p.m.
Live entertainment is featured both days of Smoke On The Mountain, from 4 p.m. to midnight at the Galax Farmers Market Stage on North Main Street. Headlining acts this year are The Tams on Friday night and The Band of Oz on Saturday. Admission to each show is $10. The Showtime Band will open both nights
From noon-4 p.m. both days, you can party for free with DJ Janet at the Farmers Market Stage. Free bluegrass and old-time jams will be held both days at Barr’s Fiddle Shop on South Main.
Stick around after the judging is finished on Saturday, visitors can stop by the team booths to get free samples of the entries. Just ask politely you’ll get a taste of some of the country’s best barbecue.
Vendors will be set up downtown to provide an authentic taste of competition-quality barbecue for sale, along with other festival foods, beverages and more.
West Wind Winery will offer its special edition “Smoke on the Mountain” wines for sale and sampling.