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Michigan's 'hot dog guy' getting new digs after protesters destroyed his supplies

Clint Tarver2_hotdogMI.jpg

During a protest against right-to-work legislation in Michigan's capital, Clinton Tarver’s catering supplies were destroyed when demonstrators tore down the tent where he was serving and trampled his gear. (Courtesy: Clinton Tarver)

The “hot dog guy” is getting new digs.

Clinton Tarver, the owner of Clint’s Hot Dog Cart and Casual Catering, saw his small business thrust into the national spotlight on Tuesday when his supplies were destroyed at a pro-union protest against right-to-work legislation in Lansing, Mich. “Violent” demonstrators tore down a tent where Tarver was serving his dogs, he said, prompting a staff member for a local lawmaker to create an online fundraiser for the 63-year-old downtown fixture. As of Friday, more than $33,000 had been donated.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Tarver said Friday. “The public has shown such love to me. You never know your true friends until you get down and I’ve had people I thought were pretty close to me and they’ve given me one call. You learn from your endeavors.”

“I’m overwhelmed. The public has shown such love to me."

- Clinton Tarver

Lorilea Zabadal, a staff member for Republican state Rep. Al Pscholka, established the fundraiser  after learning of Tarver’s plight.

“Everyone who has passed the hot dog cart knows what a kind and caring individual Clint is,” Zabadal wrote. “He never fails to bestow a smile or friendly greeting. In no way [did] he provoke this attack, nor any of the behavior displayed toward him. Regardless of your position on current legislation, rebuilding Clint's Hot Dogs is something we can all support. Please give what you can to get this deserving businessman back out there!”

Tarver, who won’t be selling dogs curbside again until March, said he’ll unveil a new hot dog cart when he does thanks to his newfound fortune.

“First of all, I’m going to get a brand new cart,” he said. “And I have sick sister, so I’m going to help her out and I’m going to help my church too.”

Tarver said Zabadal is a Facebook friend of his wife, Linda. He’s blown away by her unexpected concern, he said.

“Well, she’s a vegetarian and it’s really odd that she started this website for me,” he said. “So there’s going to be a Lorilea hot dog. And it’ll be vegetarian.”

Tarver’s cart will have other new offerings come next spring, although nothing has been finalized as of yet, he said.

“Right now, I’m just thanking everyone for the gifts and love they’ve shown me,” he said. “I’ve forgiven the people who broke all of my stuff. I’ve prayed for them and that’s where I’m at now.”

Tarver said he has put countless hot dogs in Lansing’s hungry mouths in the 15-plus years he has operated in and around downtown Lansing. But with a fancy new cart expected by March, he thinks next year may be best season yet.

“Sometimes God just has your back,” he said. “For this to happen to me, one of his most grateful servants, is just a blessing. He’s showing me that he’s looking out for me after this tragedy. I am excited and Lord knows I’ve wanted to get a new cart. Now I can pay cash.”