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Mayor’s name worth 52 cans of Spam

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

Spam is adored in Hawaii, but one particular can of the Austin-made luncheon meat will be an especially hot item there this summer.

The person who finds a Spam can autographed by Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm in a supermarket in Honolulu will get one year’s worth of Spam, or about one can a week.

Stiehm put his signature on the can more than a week ago at city hall when a reporter and camera operator from a Fox news station in Honolulu traveled overseas solely to check out Spamtown USA.

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"They had me autograph a can of Spam, and then they put it in a briefcase with locks on it," Stiehm said Monday.

Then the TV reporter’s wrist was handcuffed to the locked briefcase, and he was escorted away by two Austin police officers "because it’s such a valuable can," Stiehm said.

The filming was for a 30-minute program to be aired June 26 in Hawaii that tells about Austin, the city where Spam is made by Hormel Foods Corp., said Manolo Morales, the KHON-TV reporter for the project.

Morales said the program included filming and interviews at Spam Museum and the nearby Jerry’s Other Place restaurant, where Spam is served.

Hawaiians eat Spam daily, Morales said. That includes children picking up a convenience-store breakfast of Spam, rice and seaweed on their way to school.

Burger King last month started offering a Spam Platter in Hawaii, joining McDonald’s as the second national fast-food chain to sell Spam on its menu in the island state.

Morales said he was surprised to find that not everyone in the birthplace of Spam is crazy about the canned meat.

Stiehm found the TV crew to be focused on telling about the product’s qualities.

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"It was just a real positive thing on Austin," he said.

From what the TV crew was saying, Austin sounds "almost like a mythical place" in Hawaii, Stiehm said.

They also took the subject of Spam seriously.

"We kid around about it, but they don’t," Stiehm said. "They like it. They said, ‘We’re nuts for Spam.’"

Stiehm said that Spam makes Austin well-known and seems to be "kind of our trademark." He’s hoping to air the TV program on a cable public-access channel after getting a copy.

As for the Spamtown USA mayor’s thoughts on eating the canned meat, Stiehm said he likes Spam "as long as you’re creative with it."

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