A Tail (and other parts) of Two Piggies!

Where did the concrete hog and its ‘castle’ come from located in Berrien Park at Tremont and Third Streets in downtown Kewanee?  And how did it become a focal year-round reminder of Hog Days? The following account is provided courtesy of Dave Clarke and the Kewanee Star Courier and originally appeared in Dave's 'Around Town' column on Saturday, August 21, 2015.

KEWANEE — The concrete hog in a small, brick 'castle' in the southwest corner of the green space (now officially called Berrien Park) at Third and Tremont streets is a local fixture photographed by countless visitors to prove they were in the Hog Capital of the World. But where did the city's symbolic swine come from? Who put it there and who paid for it?
Several members of the Hog Capital of the World Festival Committee recently cleaned years of accumulated debris out of the small brick structure and gave a needed coat of new paint to the pig, which stands in the doorway watching people come and go from Cerno's across the street. Breedlove's made a new sign which has been mounted on a new board and stands next to the display telling everyone they are in Kewanee, "Hog Capital of the World." Festival committee member Bill Scott is building new turrets for the towers on both sides of the door, which came off somehow over the years.
Larry Flannery, committee co-chairman, said as they worked, someone commented that the city should be sprucing up the pig because they own the display which was in front of city hall when it stood on the site. A few days later, Flannery happened to be at city hall and asked city manager Kip Spear who "technically and legally" owns the pig and palace on the green space, which is still city property. Not just for upkeep, but in these days of lawsuits, it's good to know who owns what in case, heaven forbid, something unfortunate would happen. Flannery explained that over the years volunteers from the festival committee have taken care of maintaining the pig, but who actually owns it? Spear said he wasn't sure but thought it belonged to the festival committee. Both then wondered when the 'castle' was built and who put it there. Spear and even "oldtimers" on the committee remember it as just always being there, as do most of the rest of us. "Around town" was then asked to investigate. Flannery said if the origin of the display can be found, they can put the information on their website and in their files where it can be found by anyone searching in the future.
I remember a concrete hog sitting between the front doors of the former city hall painted black with the white band of the Hampshire breed. I can remember that one night vandals broke it loose from its pedestal with a log chain and dragged it down the street. That has become one of Kewanee's more popular legends. I can remember when the "castle" was NOT where it is today but as for when each pig was put in place and by whom, I draw a blank.


I went to the Kewanee Historical Society museum where I had e-mailed my questions earlier. Pat Lock had gone through their scrapbooks on the Hog Festival and came up with some answers. The news stories indicated a 900-pound concrete hog "donated to the city last year by the Hog Festival Committee" was yanked off its feet from in front of City Hall by vandals and dragged down the street behind a pickup in January of 1981. That indicates the statue was put in place sometime in 1980. Two young men were later arrested and charged with damage to city property, which indicates that at least at the time, the city considered the cement squealer theirs.
The next story was from Friday, Aug. 31, 1984, and included a photo of the pig in the palace with a man identified as Jerry Blodgett "applying the finishing touches" of paint to the eyes of the pig in its new "castle," which it stated was built by volunteer labor and donated materials, not by the city. Apparently a second concrete pig had been acquired since 1981. This is also when the pig lost its ears. According to the 1984 story, workmen, in a rush with Hog Days just days away, lifted the statue from the city hall step with a strap and crane to move it into place in the partially completed "castle" before covering it with the roof. According to the account, the cement swine slipped and fell headfirst into the side of the under-construction brick 'castle.' This created the second most popular legend about the statue — the backwards ears. The collision sheared off the pig’s pointers and they desperately sought a way to replace them before the weekend celebration. Apparently because of the small size, they could not find a concrete form that would work so someone suggested fiberglass body putty. It was done in haste and, as local pork producers pointed out, by some well-meaning person who didn't know pigs. Instead of pointing forward, they pointed back. People said the pig looked like it had been scared, or more like a dog than a hog. An article about "King Hog's" unfortunate life appeared a few days after Hog Days in the Peoria Journal-Star, and said there had not been time to correct the mistake before the festival but that the ears would be corrected afterward.
It took several years, while people familiar with hogs snickered at Kewanee's symbol, but someone finally switched the ears back the way they should be. According to the Journal-Star story, the Hog Festival Committee bought the first concrete hog four years earlier, which would be 1980, and placed it outside city hall. It appears the "steepled palace" was built as a "picturesque and safe surrounding because the symbol has had a rough life," alluding to the hog-napping of the first statue just months after it was put in place. It was apparently felt the structure would protect the statue from the elements and attacks.
With the dates narrowed down by the historical society, Flannery went to the minutes of monthly committee meetings and in the Aug. 11, 1980 record he found this entry by then-secretary Karen Ording: "The Garden Center in Galesburg has a 900-pound cement hog painted like a Hampshire, for which they are asking $300. The Chamber of Commerce has asked us for suggestions on how it could be used in Kewanee. Committee suggestions were to put it in Veterans Park or some other park in town, or possibly in front of City Hall." So, it looks like the idea for a concrete statue of a hog originated with the Chamber of Commerce. Once it was decided to acquire the hog, the Chamber apparently approached the city about locating it between the front doors of the city offices. Does that mean the Chamber is ultimately responsible for at least the hog?
Flannery then went to the 1984 file and in the minutes of the Aug. 28 meeting, found a discussion on "whether or not to donate two little pigs for the pig castle." “A plaque would the hung to acknowledge this," the minutes read. The motion carried and there is mention of adding piglets in the Aug. 26 Star Courier account, but nothing was apparently ever done. As far as when the replacement pig was acquired and by whom, that is not known. It had to be between the vandalism in 1981 and when the second pig was moved from city hall to the new castle. As to who paid for it, the newspaper stories indicate the two young men charged with destroying the first pig volunteered to pay for a new one. Now that we know the original price and where they got it, the cost may have been included by the court in restitution when the vandals were sentenced. It's ironic to think that the pig that now stands in the castle may have been paid for by the two guys who dragged its predecessor down the street.
The original hog was extensively damaged. A newspaper photo shows it on its side in the city street department yard where it was dumped after being found abandoned on Franklin Street. All four feet had been broken off and the torso was chipped and scratched. I'm not sure how it got there, but the statue was later seen in a flower bed at the farm home of John and Irene Spiegel, longtime festival committee members who apparently "rescued" it from the dump. After the Spiegels both passed away and the property was sold, the pig was "rescued" again by the late Arlene McNaught, another longtime committee member and collector of pig memorabilia. She had the statue placed in the front yard of her Kewanee home where it remained until her death. Vera Yelm and her husband bought two hog statues from McNaught's estate sale following Arlene's passing. The one from in front of McNaught's house is now in the Yelm's backyard on Edwards St. The "banged up one" from McNaught's backyard they purchased for $1. This is thought to be the original damaged and hoofless concrete porker that was dragged from the front steps of City Hall in 1981. It is now being stored by a friend of the Yelms.

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