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Stephanie Esposito, winner of the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Stand Challenge. --Supplied photo

Stephanie Esposito, winner of the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Stand Challenge. --Supplied photo

Thousands tried, but she’s Top Dog

By Joan Hadac

Your correspondent in Clearing and Garfield Ridge

(708) 496-0265 • [email protected] this second year of the pandemic, Stephanie Esposito found a fun way to safely beat solitary confinement and use her love of a challenge.

The Garfield Ridge woman told me when saw a tweet about the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Stand Challenge, “It sounded really cool. I’m always up for a challenge.”

Now she’s Top Dog.

Stephanie has a first place trophy to prove she conquered the challenge and was named Top Dog by officials at Vienna Beef.

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Stephanie Esposito, winner of the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Stand Challenge. –Supplied photo

Her prize package includes four top tickets to Chicago area sports and entertainment events–one event every month for a year. Special access events include the 1914 Club at Wrigley Field, Chicago White Sox Scout Seats, BMO Harris Club tickets for Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Sky box seats, Brookfield Zoo passes, a private tour of the Vienna Beef factory and more. She also will receive a $1,000 ViennaBeef.com gift card and T-shirt.

The Challenge was devised by Vienna Beef to get folks out of the house and patronize eateries selling its hot dogs.

Rules were simple. Visit 367 participating locations in the Chicago metro area, including Southeast Wisconsin and Northwest Indiana, from August through October.

The field was crowded. More than 4,300 competitors traveled across the greater Chicago area (including Southeast Wisconsin and Northwest Indiana), visiting as many Vienna Beef Hot Dog Stands as possible. The Challenge received more 29,000 check-ins, or Hot Dog Stand visits, in just 60 days.

Stephanie visited all 367 locations by Sept. 20, making her first to finish. She relished her triumph, but added she found the journey itself fun.

“It was fun. I got out, but not in a crowd of people. I got to explore the area,” Stephanie recounted.

In addition to venturing far north and south, Stephanie did get to visit a few local eateries serving Vienna Beef hotdogs, including Beefy’s at 58th and Harlem, Donald’s Famous Hot Dogs at 48th and Central and L & M Hot Dogs at 47th and Leamington.

Stephanie was a frequent visitor to L & M, which she called her favorite, because it was near where she worked–LeClaire-Hearst Park, 44th and Leamington, as a physical instructor. When we were talking, Stephanie let me know she has received a promotion and would be starting new duties at Curie Park this month. Congratulations, Stephanie!

Stephanie is celebrating 20 years from when she started as a day camp supervisor and 11 years as a year-round employee of the Chicago Park District.

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Joan Hadac

“I like building programs and building the community, especially for the kids. I look forward to continuing that in my new position,” Stephanie said to me.

She grew up in Garfield Ridge, attending St. Jane de Chantal School and then Queen of Peace High School. For college, she went to Western Illinois and Columbia.

I was curious. I asked Stephanie since she visited almost 400 hotdog stands, did she eat a similar number of hot dogs?

“I bought hot dogs at some, put money in the tip jar at others or bought a milkshake. No, I did not eat 400 hot dogs. There is no way I could eat 400 hot dogs in five weeks,” she laughed.

Scholars among us

Congratulations to three local girls—all students at Nazareth Academy in La Grange Park—who have been named Illinois State Scholars: Antonia Albanese, Miranda Salinas and Marissa Sautkis. Antonia graduated from St. Jane de Chantal School, Miranda from St. Daniel the Prophet and Marissa from St. Symphorosa.

The prestigious award is given annually by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Illinois State Scholars represent approximately the top 10 percent of high school seniors from high schools across the state. Illinois State Scholars are chosen based on a combination of exemplary ACT or SAT test scores and sixth semester class rank.

Making the announcement was Nazareth Principal Therese Hawkins. My thanks to Alena Murguia for sharing the news with me.

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