It's midsummer and time for three of America's greatest institutions: hot dogs, baseball--and Congress.
Not to mention former Playboy bunnies.
The nation's lawmakers took a break from voting on matters of serious national concern Wednesday to chomp on foot-long frankfurters at Capitol Hill's annual hot dog luncheon. The event is a huge draw for members of Congress and their staffs, second in popularity only to the summer ice cream social.
The hot dog event, which started more than 20 years ago, was timed to celebrate July as National Hot Dog Month and was sponsored by the American Meat Institute, whose industry last year gave close to $1 million in political donations to both parties. Retired major-league ballplayers Ron Cey, Doug DeCinces and Bobby Richardson were among the attendees.
This being Washington, of course, there was opposition. Advocates from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, with two former Playboy bunnies as their main attraction, held an event to encourage repr esentatives to eat meatless franks.
This was the fifth year for PETA's "hot dog not dog" lunch, where veggie dogs are served in an effort to gain recognition of the slaughtering methods and fat used to make meat hot dogs.
"They taste like regular hot dogs except they don't contain any of the cruelty, any of the cholesterol or any of the saturated fat," said Andrew Butler, a PETA spokesman.
The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says Americans consumed more than 20 billion hot dogs last year.