Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Birthday Bashed

On the scene as the Twinkie turns 70

By Gil Magana

APRIL 10, 2000:  What's the shelf life of a Twinkie? Popular opinion is that those little snack cakes never go bad, but Dan Angst, general manager of the Hostess Schiller Park Bakery, says the cakes actually have a shelf life of seven days at retail stores and are then transferred to bakery thrift stores -- where they're good for an additional seven days. Still, there's something suspicious about those spongy, golden cakes that makes you wonder if they'll survive alongside roaches after a nuclear fallout.

Here's some Twinkie trivia: Did you know that Mayor Daley officially proclaimed April 2000 as "Twinkies Turns 70 Month" in Chicago? It's true. The snack treat -- and Chicago native -- was celebrated on April 1 (though the actual birthdate is April 6) at Navy Pier, with a birthday cake made up of 20,000 individually wrapped Twinkies. You could hear the cavities forming.

"I guess we came to Navy Pier on the right day," one woman says as she makes her way through the crowd gathered around the towering 25-foot cake. The 10:30am celebration seems to be pulling in a combination of families waiting for the next screening of "Fantasia 2000" at Navy Pier's IMAX Theater, random passersby and employees from Schiller Park's Hostess Bakery.

Two clowns entertain the sugar-crazed children with Twinkie Trivia; Kid-sized hands shoot in the air at the first word, oblivious to the question, but trying like hell to win that Twinkie T-shirt or watch. As the first round of festivities wraps up, the crowd heads for the colossal cake to pull down some Twinkies for the trip home. The first person there is 7-year-old Mark from Indiana. And how does he feel about the honor? "Happy," he says, shoving the Twinkie in his mouth, going on to mumble something undecipherable about how he likes eating Twinkies "a lot."

Who could have imagined in 1930, when Jimmy Dewar, manager of the Continental Baking Company, first created the Twinkie, the symbolic value it would hold? They're a little slice of Americana so ingrained in popular culture (who doesn't know a Twinkie joke?) that a group of Rice University students conducted experiments on the little cakes, from gravitational response to the effects of rapid oxidation and radiation, posting the results of their "T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project" online. (See www.twinkiesproject.com; results also available in haiku.)

Last Twinkie trivia question: How long does it take a Twinkie to explode in the microwave? Just forty-five seconds. Trust us.


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