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Frank Gray

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Scott Rizzo is out of ammo for his Twinkie cannon, which he built from a riding lawn mower.

No Twinkies, no ammo for cannon-maker

Thanks, Hostess Brands.

In one fell swoop you’ve made pointless the weeks of work by one Fort Wayne tinkerer and robbed countless children of – well, let’s skip that bit about children, but you have sort of spoiled Scott Rizzo’s day.

Rizzo, as we said, is a tinkerer, the sort of guy who shows up at the local Maker Faire, where people show off unusual-looking things they call art or unique inventions like a pedal-powered kitchen table.

A little more than a year ago, Rizzo looked at a riding mower and saw something more. Working with sheet metal, air compressors, some tubes and some computer graphics, he turned the tractor into a miniature dragster.

Sure, with only 12 horsepower it doesn’t go fast, but speed wasn’t the point. The key to his homemade contraption was a compressed air tank and a couple of pipes that stuck out the front like cannons.

Traveling to various events, towing a trailer full of ammo, Rizzo would fire projectiles into the crowds.

His projectile of choice?

Twinkies.

Rizzo could really pelt the crowd, too. That trailer, covered with decals of the Twinkie cowboy character, could carry up to 40 boxes of Twinkies.

Rizzo tried to appear in the Three Rivers Festival Parade, but he wasn’t permitted because parade organizers don’t allow people to throw candy into the crowds – which for some reason includes shooting Twinkies into the crowd.

But Rizzo found plenty of other places to show off his totally pointless handiwork.

And then Hostess Brands, the company that makes Twinkies, up and went out of business, shutting down nearly a score of factories, throwing thousands of people out of work.

Some people will shed no tears over the demise of Twinkies. In today’s world – where some regard being overweight as the single greatest threat to the existence of mankind – Twinkies are reviled for not being nutritious.

But the demise of Hostess Brands has left Rizzo almost clean out of ammo, and what good is a Twinkie-shooting dragster without Twinkies?

The sad truth is that some people might not miss Rizzo’s dragster, either, because they didn’t understand those strange things he was shooting.

Rizzo said he showed up at the Maker Faire at Headwaters Park last month and started blasting away with Twinkies, only to have kids bring the snacks back to him and ask what they were. They had never seen a Twinkie before.

Rizzo had to explain to the kids that they were supposed to open the plastic wrappers and eat the snacks.

No wonder Hostess went out of business, Rizzo said.

Rizzo isn’t totally out of luck. He conceivably could shoot hot dogs from his compressed air cannons, although hot dogs do tend to pack more of a wallop than a Twinkie.

Fortunately, other bakers make snacks that look a lot like Twinkies and Rizzo figures he could resort to shooting those into crowds here and there.

Or, maybe, someone will buy Hostess Brands and resume making the yellow sponge treats. It would be worth their while. They’ve got a regular customer waiting in Rizzo.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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