ROCHELLE — Local resident and hot dog aficionado Michele Hardcastle was on a mission Saturday, keeping with a tradition of rating the hot dogs at this year’s Hot Dog Day in Rochelle.
It’s something she has done for the past several years and although this year each location had something a little different, one stood out in particular. Hardcastle said some of the locations had tables with tablecloths for people to sit while others offered pop and water, chips, and all of the condiments.
After every location Hardcastle visited, she posted pictures and comments on social media for all to see.
“Everybody knows that this is what I do. They are looking forward to the time where they can see who got what best, what condiments, what sides they offer,” Hardcastle said. “I said this year they really brought it. Now it’s just because of Facebook and my friends now I’ve taken the hot dog thing to another level. “
Hardcastle admits hot dogs in her household are nothing new. Her husband, Paul, has worked for Rochelle Foods for the last 24 years, even at one time in the hot dog department. Friends joked of their love for hot dogs.
Naturally the annual Hot Dog Day in Rochelle is a good day for Hardcastle.
“I said a long time ago, ‘Free hot dogs? What better day could that be?’ I could go and rate the hot dogs,” Hardcastle said. “I’m a professional hot dog eater.”
Hardcastle’s friend, Faith Hayenga, joined in along with their daughters Elise and Zoey, and their daughters’ friend, Tristan.
“Most people that know Michele know she has a thing for hot dogs,” said Hayenga. “At least one of us from the group tried a hot dog. Michele was rating on the whole experience, not just the hot dog, and if they offered sides such as chili, cheese, or onions, ketchup and mustard. Some places even offered pop and water, chips, and giveaways.”
Not only is Hardcastle a self-proclaimed hot dog eater, she is also a professional hot dog girl. Just a couple of weeks ago, local residents might have seen her dressed in a hot dog costume standing outside of the Hillcrest Fire Department during their hot dog and brat fundraiser.
Students at Rochelle Township High School know her as the cashier and even joke on the day the school offers hot dogs is “Mrs. Hardcastle’s favorite day.”
“Definitely O’Reilly’s…I think they have a following. We heard they had hot cheese and when we got there, literally people were tailgating in the parking lot there. They had everything from chili to cheese to peppers, onions, condiments, sauerkraut…they even had them keeping warm floating in onions,” said Hardcastle. “It was a 5-star, and when we were pulling out, everyone had lawn chairs, they were sitting in their hatchbacks. It was good.”
Even on vacation, Hardcastle is tempted by the roadside signs declaring “World’s Best Hot Dog,” stopping in various places to see what they offer. But back home in Rochelle, she gives everyone who participated in the annual event thumbs up.
“I love Rochelle, lived here all my life. I like when they do events like Hot Dog Days because our town needs more things like that.”