How a 65-foot ‘Hot Dog in the City’ relishes generations of NYC street food and vendors

Artists stand in front of Hot Dog in the City sculpture
Paul Outlaw and Jen Catron stand in front of their 65-foot “Hot Dog in the City” sculpture in Times Square.
Photo by Lauren Rapp
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The world’s largest hot dog was unveiled in the heart of the Big Apple Tuesday.

Times Square was flooded more than usual with spectators watching a 65-foot-long mustard-adorned hot dog rise into the sky to shoot out confetti. Supported by Times Square Arts and the Street Vendor Project, the art installation Hot Dog in the City was co-created by conceptual artists Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw, known for their wild and outrageous sculptures.  

Catron said when they were thinking about finding the perfect symbol for an art piece in Times Square the duo kept returning to the idea of the hot dog: “It’s an icon of New York City, it’s an icon of Times Square, it’s really just an icon of America.” 

Only rats, pizza, and the Statue of Liberty (maybe a few others) rival the hot dog as a symbol of what makes New York, New York. Artist Paul Outlaw says the eccentric ode to the beloved street meat is more than just a giant hot dog. 

“As we started digging into the history of the hot dog, it really became evident that it’s not all positivity,” Outlaw said. “There’s a huge class story behind there. Lower class and the upper class. Corporate America versus working-class America.”

Outlaw went on to explain the deep history between the hot dog and the fabric of the city.

“There is obviously an immigrant story that is very much involved. Which is very much a part of America so it really began to form a really dynamic portrayal of what America is.” 

Attendees Julie Coleman and Anita Strollo came as a pair to witness the art installation in person. Despite being vegetarians, they were excited to get a glimpse of the animatronic structure.

Strollo began to laugh at the realization that her eyes were tearing up from thinking about the history of immigrant vendors selling hot dogs in New York City. 

“It’s a way for people to start making a living,” Strollo said. “This was their stepping stone to a better life.” 

Coleman agrees the humble hot dog represents a lot, “It’s a quick thing, it’s a baseball game, it’s a street cart, it’s New York, it’s America. So, it’s a big deal.”

Mohamed Attia, managing director of the Street Vendor Project (SVP), was once a hot dog vendor in the same location for five years. “Between 2010 and 2014, if you passed Times Square around that time, you probably purchased a hot dog from me,” he said.

Attila’s goal with The Street Vendor Project, a membership-based organization, is to uplift the voices of street vendors, “making sure people are seeing street vendors for who they are; hard-working immigrants and people of color. Running the smallest businesses in our city.”

The artists of Hot Dog in the City share a similar vision. They will be launching a video series with SVP highlighting food vendors and their importance to the city. 

Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw’s dazzling sculpture will be on display in Times Square (Broadway & 46th Street) from now through June 13. The world’s largest hot dog will shoot out confetti once a day while the exhibit lasts.

Hot Dog in the City will also have special programming including a hot dog wrestling match, a “hottest dog” dachshund beauty pageant, debates on the best condiments, and more.

To find the times and dates of upcoming events for the exhibit, visit arts.timessquarenyc.org.

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