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Young customers taken for ride at Meijer

The opportunity to win a $100 gift card and appear in a television commercial is being used by Meijer to entice parents to upload photos of their kids to the retailer’s Facebook page.

As part of a contest called “Star with Sandy,” Meijer is giving customers until February 6 to submit photos of their kids or themselves when they were young riding a mechanical horse named “Sandy” that can be found at each of Meijer’s 204 stores in five Midwestern states.

A total of 10 $100 gift cards will be awarded at random to those who upload photos but the real enticement is the opportunity for a co-starring role in an upcoming television commercial that will feature images of children riding Sandy.

"Sandy is unique to Meijer and we're pleased to have her as part of our shopping experience," said Nicole Laughlin, Meijer’s VP of brand development. "We look forward to sharing these special moments in our advertising, to help us say 'hello' to new neighbors and bring a smile to seasoned Sandy riders in the communities we've served for much longer."

Featuring Sandy in a commercial is a throwback to a simpler time when discount stores featured mechanical rides and various arcade games in their vestibules. Sandy made its debut with the opening of Thrifty Acres in 1962, when the late Fred Meijer, who had a long history with horses, learned of 10 cent pony rides at a supermarket in Nebraska. He thought 10 cents was too much, according to the company, and decided to charge a penny instead.

"My dad believed in making things affordable for our customers and that included Sandy," Meijer co-chairman Doug Meijer said. "Riding Sandy is a memory shared by so many children and parents who shop at our stores. But the real magic happens when those children grow up and bring their own kids back for a ride."

Meijer stores are located in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.