Monday, March 9, 2009

Pigs and Cows and Katfish, Oh My!

No, it is not another version of The Wizard of Oz or a horrible re-imaging that has been all the rage lately with classic horror films, but this little trip will take you far from Kansas and nowhere near the rainbow. What am I rambling about you ask? Well over the weekend I visited the in-laws in Winnfield, Louisiana and got to see the latest crop of Uncle Earls Hog Dog Trials, Parade of Pigs contest entries. While this year’s entries are not quite complete or even started for the most part, I wanted to share some pictures of some of the past years’ entries. And make no mistake; I am in no way making fun of the town, pigs or the festival. I actually would like a pig myself, much to my wife’s dismay.

A quick search found that the trials are named in honor of Earl K. Long and were inaugurated in 1995, on the 100th anniversary of his birth. "Uncle" Earl was the most colorful and well-liked governor Louisiana has ever elected and one of three Louisiana governors to be born in Winnfield. The festival, as written into law in July of 2003, Acts 2003, No. 808 §1, eff. July 1, 2003, established the Hog Dog Trials Festival and all of the hop la surrounding the event.

Now that the history lesson is over, it is to my understanding the 600 pound pigs are delivered and decorated as part of a city wide contest to bring attention to the town’s mid-March celebration as well as showcase the local artists’ talents. All of the pigs are identical in that they are large, concrete and stand on all fours, but that is where the similarities end. Beginning the first week or so of March, the pigs are unloaded at the participants’ business and the artists get to work. Paint is not the only thing used on these porkers as wigs, shoes, feather boas and other props are applied to the pigs. And while the contest is for fun, some of the themed pigs are planned out and are really good, while others well, are just decorated.

I first came across the pigs in 2005 as my family and I descended upon Winnfield in order to make final wedding preparations. We turned the corner and there they were, splendid painted pigs. My wife was horrified but I was curious. Since then I have gone down every March to check out the pigs and snap pictures of some of the better examples. The pigs line the main “downtown” portion of the town as well as outlying areas. Some of my past favorites include:

"Tubby" complete with suds and tub

Pig E Bank, in front of the Winnfield Bank

Over the years the pigs have been superheroes such as Spiderpig and Superpig as well as bankers, ball players, and celebrities like Hamma Montana and Elvis. They have been professionals such as nurses, doctors and loggers as well as ballerinas and bikers. Some have even been abstract! Each lovingly created to be enjoyed by all.

Now while Winnfield has their pigs, they are not the only ones with painted pigs. The city of Seattle, Washington also holds a parade of pigs with various painted themes. For what I have gathered the pigs are fiberglass but just as large and just as decorated. Here are a few shots of said pigs from my internet search:

Space pig

Dino Pig

These two locations are not the only ones with decorated, larger than life animals. There are groundhogs in Punxsutawney, Stallions in Saratoga Springs, Toms in Tennessee and Longhorns in Texas. Each city seems to put on some type of seasonal competition with the focus on that area’s animal being painted to match a theme or promote a business. Some of those examples are below:

I cannot say all of that without mentioning my own hometown of Shreveport with their Katfish for Kids. New to the city this year, the Katfish are part of a fundraising effort by the Volunteers for Youth Justice and a local bank. While I am not associated with the campaign nor really know much about it, I am enjoying the art work that is being done to the huge fiberglass Katfish. While there are supposed to be approximately one hundred in and about the town, I have only encountered a few in the downtown area with two being in my building.

Caddo Kat

B-52 Kat, very cool, Represents Barksdale

LSU Kat, Kat after my own heart, I would bring this home in a heartbeat

Not sure what my fascination is with these animals, maybe it is the size, maybe it is the quirkiness, or maybe it is just something different, but I like them. If your local town has a similar festival, drop me a comment and send me a link.

Disclaimer: Although I have pictures of both Winnfield pigs and Shreveport Katfish, none of the pictures used in this blog were personally taken by me, if they are yours and you wish for their removal, please let me know.

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