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Pigmania inspires creativity among community ‘artists’

Proceeds from event goes to
scholarship fund for students

(August 2015) – For 14 years, concrete pigs dressed as astronauts, blues musicians and Barbie, or decked out with props to look like cars, motorcycles and airplanes, have been herded to Madison, Ind.’s riverfront for “Pigmania,” a highlight of the annual Madison Ribberfest barbecue and blues festival.
This year, local businesses and individuals have signed up to sponsor a total of 44 faux swine for the contest.
For local artist and sculptor Eric Phagan, the opportunity to create a unique piece of art is what has drawn him once again to the contest.

Photo by Patti Watson

Madison artist Eric Phagan works on his new pig creation at his Gallery 115.

Two years ago, his artistic rendering of the simple concrete pig was auctioned off, bringing in an additional $500 for the scholarship fund, according to Kevin Watson, Pigmania coordinator.
Phagan is donating his creation for auction again this year.
“It’s neat and challenging to work on a 3-dimensional object in a 2-dimensional style,” said Phagan, who works and sells his work at his own Gallery 115 on Madison’s Main St. He said this year’s pig will be a contemporary piece that will have a “new and old” feel, combining his signature ink-work style – familiar to anyone who has seen his work at Gallery 115 – with images of the riverfront and steamboats.
“It’s a cool mix,” he said, adding that the eyes of the pig will be painted to look realistic. “It will be like a living, breathing sculpture.”
First-timers to Pigmania this year include the law firm of Jenner Pattison Sutter & Wynn, whose entry is dressed as a Hickory Smoked Husker in honor of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the film “Hoosiers.” The film, which starred Gene Hackman, is loosely based on the legendary Milan High School boys basketball team that won the Indiana State Champion-ship in 1954.
Mark Wynn said the idea came from the Indiana Pacers, which is sporting Hickory Huskers jerseys like those worn by the fictional team in the film.

Photo by Patti Watson

Jenner, Pattison, Sutter & Wynn law firm has created its first- ever pig this year. Their “Hickory Smoked Husker” is to honor the coming 30th anniversary of the film “Hoosiers.” Pictured with the pig from left are Carla Elston, Judy Schafer, Barb Carnes, Jean Deaton and Cathy Huff.

“It’s been a lot of fun for everyone in our office,” Wynn said. “We’ve had a blast, from the idea to the finish.”
Wynn said the firm donates time and money to several local events each year and decided to participate in Pigmania as “another way to get involved” in the community.
“We realized we hadn’t participated in Ribberfest in this way and thought it was a natural fit,” he said.
When asked if the firm is “in it to win it,” Wynn laughed. “That’s the only reason we’re in.”
Hickory Creek Healthcare on Cragmont Street is a veteran participant. Administrator Christy Risk said the skilled-nursing facility has sponsored a pig for about a decade. Residents and staff work together to determine a theme and decorate their entry, she said. “It’s a pretty big deal when the pig does arrive. It’s the talk of the place.”
This year’s theme is “Hickory Creek Heroes,” and their pig will swoop down on the competition as Batman, Risk said.
“It’s a wonderful activity for the residents and staff. It gets the creative juices flowing.”

Photo by Patti Watson

Residents and staff helped come up with the theme for the Hickory Creek Healthcare pig. Pictured from left are Administrator Christi Risk and employee Jennifer Abbott.

Sponsorships are $125 per pig. The pigs vie for the Judge’s Award and People’s Choice Award. The latter award is presented to the pig that collects the most donations from festival attendees on Friday and Saturday.
The Judge’s Award is a 3-foot-tall “traveling” trophy with a plaque listing the names of the winners from each year of the contest. Last year’s winner, Mane Attractions on Main Street, has had the honor of displaying the trophy for the past 12 months.
The event raises $3,500 to $4,000 each year and all the money collected goes into a fund that awards one or two $1,000 scholarships annually to Jefferson County high school graduates, said Watson, whose veterinary clinic – The Pets Doc – sponsors a pig each year.
The students are chosen based on financial need, grade averages and an essay that must tie in their chosen career path “to something Ribberfest related,” Watson said. He added that the winning students generally are “B” level students “who may be very qualified, but have to struggle” more than top students “who always have lots of opportunities.
“We look for how they express their maturity, their concept of where they are going, career-wise, and their creativity,” Watson explained.
He said one student wrote about her plans to go into dentistry and tied it into Ribberfest by talking about the importance of teeth cleaning for the people eating barbecue at the festival.

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