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By Mehgan Belanger
EGG HARBOR, N.J. -- With the sun high in the blue sky and no clouds in sight, it was the perfect weather for southern New Jersey hoagie lovers to gather at a Wawa convenience store here and celebrate that magical mix of carbohydrates, protein and the occasional veggie, known as the Wawa hoagie.
The '60s-themed celebration, held Wednesday afternoon at the store on English Creek Blvd., was the fourth and final store event in the "Peace, Love and Shorti" tour, where up to 100 company officials and associates came together with customers to praise all things hoagie. View a slideshow and video coverage of the Egg Harbor Hoagiefest event.
"People respond to it well because of the energy, excitement and nostalgia," explained Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce. "The four events further engage the community and the associates, and honor the traditions of hoagie-making at Wawa."
The events coincided with the second-annual chainwide Hoagiefest promotion, held June through July, when featured Shorti hoagies sell for $2.99 for two weeks each. The four featured varieties are Italian, Cheesesteak, Turkey and Meatball.
"[Hoagiefest] was a surprising success last year," Wawa COO David Johnston told CSNews Online in an exclusive interview during the event. "With this year's economy, we felt a value message was especially important, so it made all the sense in the world, and is performing better than ever."
The $2.99 promotion was scheduled to end July 26, but Wawa COO David Johnston told CSNews Online Wawa will have a "grand finale" for the two weeks following July 26, where all four subs will be available for $2.99 each.
The day began at 8 a.m. for two-dozen associates, who constructed a quarter-mile's length of hoagies, to be distributed to customers later that day as well as an area food bank.
Kicking off the event was a donation of 1,000 two-foot hoagies by Wawa to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. Store associates lined up and passed the boxes full of hoagies from a Hoagiefest-branded refrigerated trailer to a food bank truck.
Following introductory remarks by Johnston acknowledging the chain's 45th anniversary this year and its hard-working associates, the Egg Harbor police and fire departments squared off to see which group could make the most hoagies in three minutes. The winner would receive a $1,000 donation from Wawa to the charity of their choice. Handfuls of lettuce flew through the air, slices of cheese and meat were slapped on rolls, and at the end of the competition, both teams made the same amount of hoagies. As a result, Wawa gave both organizations $1,000 donations. The organizations receiving funding are the DARE program and the Burn Foundation.
Soon after, the remainder of the quarter-mile of hoagie—weighing nearly one ton—was served to the public, along with free Wawa private label bottled water and iced tea. Snacks were provided by Herr's, Tastykake and Entemann's.
Making up the quarter-mile of hoagie was:
-- 159 pounds each of Italian Ham, Genoa Salami and Provolone cheese
-- 80 pounds of Ham Prosciutto
-- 352 pounds of sliced tomatoes
-- 160 pounds of sliced onions
-- 158 pounds of shredded lettuce
-- Eight pounds of oregano
-- 12 gallons of oil
To get customers into the '60s-themed Hoagiefest vibe, employees handed out tie-died t-shirts, buttons, rose-colored glasses and more. A CD was also available with Hoagiefest inspired songs such as "Hoagie in the Sky," and "Captain Hoagie's Shorti Brigade."
Meanwhile, Wawa held a Kara-hoagie contest, where Hoagiefest customers got the chance to sing along to the hoagie songs, and could win a month's supply of hoagies. And the convenience chain also set up an exhibit of hoagie milestones, called "Peace, Love and Provolone," which included moments such as when Wawa began serving pre-made sandwiches and hoagies in 1972; when Wawa associates and volunteers built a mile-long Hoagie for the 2006 Fleet Week; and the first-ever Hoagiefest, in 2008.
Other Hoagiefest tour stops were Philadelphia; Ocean City, Md.; and Virginia Beach, Va. The event sites, spread across the chain's geography, were chosen for their size and ability to accommodate the influx of traffic. Three of the locations were chosen for their beach-like locales—Virginia Beach, Egg Harbor and Ocean City. Philadelphia was chosen for its rich hoagie history, and was attended by its mayor, Michael Nutter, who spoke to the Hoagiefest crowd wearing a tie-died t-shirt and proclaimed the day "Hoagiefest Day."
While it was too early to definitively say whether there would be a 2010 Hoagiefest, Johnston said he "wouldn't be surprised."
View a slideshow and video coverage of the Egg Harbor Hoagiefest event.
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