This weekend has been busy in Denton. It happens twice a year, in May and December, filling hotels and packing restaurants.

Thousands of students between UNT and TWU took the ceremonial walk across the stage to “Pomp and Circumstance.” Families and friends flooded into Denton to celebrate the grads.

And today is Mother’s Day. It’s perfectly fitting that these two occasions should meet on the calendar, for it’s one of Mom’s proudest moments when her baby successfully closes the book on school days. I’ve been that mom a couple of times now, so I speak from experience.

Our CVB family is celebrating a few graduates this weekend, too, and one of them is leaving the nest. Connor Gray joined our team a year ago as an intern. He’s added immense talent to our team, and we are going to miss him terribly.

We are thrilled for Connor, though, and I know his mama is beaming this Mother’s Day. He is about to embark on a great adventure.

Connor grew up in Amarillo always knowing he would be an artist some day. His penchant for art earned him the “Most Creative Award” in kindergarten, an early launch to his career. While excellent in all studies, he thrived most in creative settings, focusing on elective courses in graphic design classes.

Taking dual college credit courses, Connor was a college sophomore when he graduated high school. He was accepted at several universities, but decided on UNT because it felt right.

“Denton offered a good environment and the campus (UNT) was comfortable,” Connor said. “It’s what I had imagined college would feel like.”

Now, at barely 21 years old, holding a Bachelors Degree in Journalism with Concentration in Advertising from UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism, Connor is on the brink of a thrilling journey.

It began this spring when Connor’s mom saw an Oscar Mayer television commercial promoting a one-year internship available to a handful of fresh college grads. The gig is National Spokesperson for Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, otherwise known as “hotdogger.”  Connor did some research and decided to apply.

Twelve hotdoggers divided into six wienermobiles will be dispatched to six regions in the nation touting the Oscar Mayer brand. They run social media, create press kits, publish videos, meet with media, conduct interviews, and hold public events.

“I like to focus my life around a good story. I get good adventures out of it,” Connor said. He figured this particular adventure could open all kinds of doors he can’t yet imagine.

Thousands applied for the job that only 12 would get. Connor was selected among the top 24 candidates, flew to Chicago to interview, and made it into the elite 12 that will be this year’s hotdoggers.

From a road-tripping family, Connor has been to 33 of the 50 United States and has designs on visiting the rest.

Loving travel is a must. “A salary, 365 days in hotels, no home, no car, no stuff. Just a giant hotdog on wheels,” Connor laughed. Hotdoggers don’t even need many clothes, he said. All-weather wienie-wear comprises the year’s attire.

There’s more.

Connor and his marketing partner Mackenzie Carder recently won second place at a national collegiate marketing competition.

Still on the hotdogger high, Connor and his college friend and marketing partner Mackenzie Carder entered a national marketing competition in Los Angeles, sponsored by DECA, Inc.  They took second place in the nation in their category. Prior to Connor and Mackenzie’s win, third place is the highest award ever won by a UNT student.

So what’s next after his wiener days are done? He intends to use this year trekking around the country in the Wienermobile exploring locations.

“Location is one of my biggest factors for deciding where I will end up,” Connor said. “Denton has been near perfect. I might come back here. I’m fluid in how I think about the future. Maybe I’ll keep moving, doing more mobile marketing as a brand ambassador. As long as I’m creative, out of the box, I’m happy.”

I’d definitely say being a hotdogger meets the creative, out of the box requirement.

Oh to be young again! We are so proud for Connor and, to be honest, a little envious too. He’s going to rock that wienermobile for Oscar Mayer and have a fabulous escapade in the process.

Happy Mother’s Day to Connor’s mom. Job well done! Connor is an exceptional young man. Our CVB family is relishing the small part we have played in launching what will surely be an incredible, creative life.

Congratulations, Connor Gray!