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‘Hot Dog Man,’ broadcasting to your living room: Carroll County library employee’s videos entertaining kids

Chris Heady, an associate at the Carroll County Public Library, created a video channel called “Fun with Mr. Chris” through the library’s Facebook page and uses it to share colorful and engaging content for children and their families to watch during the coronavirus pandemic.
Chris Heady, an associate at the Carroll County Public Library, created a video channel called “Fun with Mr. Chris” through the library’s Facebook page and uses it to share colorful and engaging content for children and their families to watch during the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

Chris Heady mysteriously turned into a hot dog overnight, or so the story goes, and refuses to go out in public for fear that people will want to eat him. Instead, he finds various activities he can do indoors.

Heady — also known as “Hot Dog Man” — works in the Outreach Services department of the Carroll County Public Library. He’s created a series of videos called “Fun with Mr. Chris” through the library’s Facebook page, using it to share colorful and engaging content for children and their families to watch while staying inside during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Heady used to wear his hot dog costume to read to children at schools in the county. He said they would ask him why he was dressed as a hot dog and decided to use the costume to his advantage when the pandemic hit.

The second episode of “Hot Dog Man” shows Heady wanting to go to the beach, but he gets inspired by library resources and chooses to stay home. He creates an inflatable pool in his living room and learns how to make a pineapple drink in a Tiki cup, essentially bringing the beach to the safety of his own house.

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“It’s the kind of message of if this crazy guy can do it, then so can you,” said Heady, originally from Columbia. “People are really picking up on it, and I get a lot of messages where people are asking what’s happening to Hot Dog Man next.”

The library’s outreach department specializes in literature-based programs and puppet shows for groups and organizations within the county. They also provide instructional workshops on children’s literature, storytelling, puppetry, and emergent literacy for parents and professionals working with young children. Other outreach services include the Bookmobile, Storytime Express mobile services and the Carroll County Detention Center library.

The library began offering limited services when it reopened June 8 under Stage 1 of its reopening plan, offering express pickup so customers can pick up bagged items in the lobby of the library branches and take them home.

“A lot of these kids may not necessarily have a chance to go to the library, so this has been how we serve,” Heady said. “We also visit jails, and we have another branch that specializes in elder care to make sure people who are kind of vulnerable and can’t necessarily get out of the house anymore and can’t drive but they need to be stimulated from a reading perspective.

“We provide them this ability, we bring the entertainment to you.”

Another popular segment Heady leads in his video series centers on Corky the Penguin, the library’s puppet mascot. Heady said Corky has been a longtime favorite character for children who see the puppet during book deliveries and story times. Heady created a show for Corky to give kids a chance to engage with the puppet during the pandemic.

“The kids love him to death,” Heady said. “They just eat this guy up. This penguin has name-brand recognition with Mickey Mouse and kids want to ask him questions about what he’s up to, what his favorite food and sport are. These kids just love Corky.”

Heady has been working for the library system since August 2019 and has a background in arts and entertainment. He found his way into the library’s outreach department after working at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, for three years, followed by a six-year stint at Hershey’s Chocolate World in Pennsylvania.

Heady said his previous experience helped him develop two qualities: a sense of commitment to excellence and the ability to create engaging content for his audience.

“It can’t come from a fabricated place, the emotions have to be real,” Heady said. “If somebody is reading a script of somebody coming from a place where they’re trying to channel something, but it isn’t working, it reads as false. The other thing that really plays into what motivated me to do these things is a sense of escapism, a sense of fantasy.

“That’s what I’m trying to bring to my videos, a sense of empathy and a connection with the people at home.”

In Orlando, Heady performed as the conductor of the Hogwarts Express, the “ambassador” to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. He was responsible for greeting guests as they entered that section of the park, and guests could pose for photos with the conductor as well.

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At Hershey’s Chocolate World, he voiced a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and trained digital puppeteers for a 4-D interactive movie. Heady said his library position made sense because it aligned with puppetry, filmmaking, and content creation.

Filmmaking is Heady’s “secret passion,” and he said he thrives in a deadline-driven environment that continues to his creative wheels turning.

“I think it’s important to have these fun things that bring joy to others, but also to myself as well because if I’m not having fun, then that’s not going to translate to the product,” he said. “It’s important not to just pump them out, but commit to excellence and that hunger and demand from the audience …

“That’s not a critique, they want this … These come from an emotional place, a place of good intentions.”

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