14th annual West Virginia Hot Dog Festival takes over downtown Huntington

Dogs both big and small could be found at the 14th annual West Virginia Hot Dog Festival on Saturday as attendees of all ages gathered to watch wiener dog races, have a bite to eat from various local vendors and listen to live music.

Second-year attendee Teresa Kessler said she has looked forward to attending the festival all year after bringing her two wiener dogs and son to last year’s event.

“It’s just such a fun atmosphere,” Kessler said. “I love seeing all of the dogs, and it’s also nice seeing local businesses lined up selling their products and getting their name out there.”

Kessler said she believes the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival’s originality is what draws people to attend.

“Where else can you find this? I think it says a lot about Huntington and the state’s character,” Kessler said. “I really like seeing the community come together. I really don’t know why I didn’t start coming sooner.”

The festival’s roots trace back to John Mandt Jr., owner of Stewarts Original Hot Dogs, and the proceeds each year are donated to Hoops Family Children’s Hospital.

Shawn Jordan, production and media relations manager at Cabell Huntington Hospital, said Mandt’s personal connection to childhood illness sparked the idea for such a fun, family-oriented event for a cause.

“John Mandt has been a huge supporter of the hospital over the years. He actually has a personal connection; when he was younger he had a family member who was always sick and in the hospital and so he always felt a need to give back to the community,” Jordan said. “So he started this because of that personal connection.”

Jordan said while the all-day event, which included everything from wrestling to root-beer chugging, had something for everyone to enjoy, the biggest component was the guest’s furry friends.

“You can’t miss all the dog activity,” Jordan said. “You’ve got the wiener dog races, you have the dog parade, and there are vendors from all over the place here and a lot of them have a lot of dog paraphernalia. You can get your dog all dressed up and looking good and snazzy and then, of course, all of the food vendors. There’s something here for everybody.”

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said it’s amazing seeing so many people from all over the region coming to celebrate a great cause in the city of Huntington.

“So many people from the state of West Virginia come to celebrate hot dogs and our fur friends, our real hot dogs,” Williams said. “And our dogs coming here and being able to be a part of it, it is just a pure family affair.”

Hanna Pennington can be contacted at [email protected].