Hot dogs bring folks together

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office held seven “Hot Dog with a Deputy” events this summer throughout the suburban communities it serves, setting up a chance for kids to dine with deputies.

Ramsey County Sherrif’s deputies served hot dogs to residents out of a refurbished Salvation Army food trailer.

How many hot dogs can a community consume? The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office got a pretty good idea over the course of the summer.

Give or take a few, deputies and officials from the sheriff’s office served up about 2,800 hot dogs to residents of Little Canada and other cities the department contracts police services to, during seven community-building events from late June to late August.



Inspired by community outreach events like “Coffee with a Cop” and “Night to Unite,” this was the first year the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office held its “Hot Dog with a Deputy” events. At each event, the deputies came armed with 400 hot dogs and handed them out to attendees, free of charge, from 5 to 7 p.m.  

Randy Gustafson, the department’s public communication and crime prevention coordinator, said it took a grant or two to save up for such an endeavor, but that it was a significant way for deputies to connect with residents, and vice versa.

“It’s important any time people can connect like this, to build rapport and camaraderie, to see folks in friendly settings,” he said. “It makes sense.”


Haul it in a style

According to Gustafson, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Foundation, a 501c non-profit, donated funds to make the idea a reality and to propel it forward.

Deputies didn’t have to lug coolers, grills and picnic tables to the events. Instead, a former Salvation Army food trailer was purchased and restored, and licenses and permits for serving food and health safety were acquired. 

Then the trailer was stocked with hot dogs, buns, chips, bottled water and frozen fun pops.


Where they went; what they did

Sheriff’s staff visited Berwood Park in Vadnais Heights June 21, Bobby Theisen Park in Shoreview June 29, Polar Lake Park in White Bear Township July 11, Pioneer Park in Little Canada Aug. 8, Commons Pavilion in Shorview Aug. 10, Tony Schmidt Park Aug. 16 and the Recreation Center in North Oaks Aug. 22.

“We all had a really good time,” Gustafson said, noting that many deputies volunteered their time, attending the evening events while off duty.

Other than getting partially rained out during one of the events, Gustafson said the project was a success.

“This was a really good way to get families and all ages involved,” he said.

The sheriff’s office didn’t just provide the free food. It also had police equipment and vehicles for the public to see up close, and K-9 units and SWAT team members showed up in uniform.

“Our water patrol unit brought out the new air boat,” Gustafson said. “It was a big hit with the kids, who climbed all over it.”

While the youngsters were doing that, Gustafson noted that adults — residents and deputies — were able to discuss everything from community events and hobbies to the strained relationship between police and civilians in a safe, relaxed environment.

Jesse Poole can be reached at or at 651-748-7815.


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