The time for swine has arrived, and it’s quite a colorful entrance.
A months-long effort by the United Way of Sampson County has now been realized, as members from local businesses, civic and community organizations, schools, clubs and others gathered Wednesday to get their first look at the pigs painted by local artists.
The horde of pigs, including “Suzie Sow,” “Pigsician,” “Pigcasso,” “Hog Wash,” “El Cerdo Feliz” (The Happy Pig), “Swine-nancial” and 18 others, were wrangled together at the Victor R. Small House on College Street for the private viewing. The public got their first peek at the pigs Thursday.
“This is a one-of-a-kind project that I think will make history for Sampson County,” said Grace Ho, a “Go Hog Wild” committee member and the artistic consultant for the effort. “For our community and our county — a community our size — to put this together and highlight our artists, is just amazing.”
The ultimate goal of the “Go Hog Wild” campaign has been to bring about community goodwill and camaraderie through a single project and raise awareness of the local United Way, all while bringing something new to the area and promoting agriculture and local artists.
“I think the artists have gone well beyond the call, they rose to the challenge and then some,” said Nancy Carr, executive director of the local United Way. “I think (the public) is going to be taken aback. This is above anyone’s expectations, and the artists had so much fun. Our pigs are awesome.”
At 24, the number of local sponsors exceeded United Way’s expectations. They had just as many local artists step up to decorate the pigs. Wendy Carr, co-chairwoman for the United Way’s Go Hog Wild committee, and Ho were two of those artists.
“It’s exciting,” said Wendy Carr, who painted “Sporthopaedic” for Huff Orthopaedic. “I do hope it raises awareness of United Way, because that is the sole purpose. I think it’s going to be awesome to take a tour downtown with our maps and look at each of these pigs and not only look at them, but see who the artist is and the meaning behind each of them.”
Nancy Carr said the maps will be available at many of the merchants where pigs are located. “Go Hog Wild” T-shirts designed by Ho will also be for sale at Matthews Cards and Gifts.
Ho painted a pig sponsored by Sessoms Jewelry and a winged pig sponsored by First United Methodist Church in honor of minister Dr. Ed Gunter. As she looked at the pigs she designed with all the others inside the Small House and on the front lawn, she was overwhelmed.
“I think it just reflects all the work that goes into a group project, everyone chipping in,” said Ho. “I think it reflects the community and reflects the artists that a lot of people didn’t know we had in the community. It was a nice opportunity for them to do something for the community and show off their talent.”
In February, the idea arose out of similar projects in other communities and the push to gather sponsors for the endeavor began just days later. Two months later, there were 24 sponsors on board and fiberglass pigs were ordered. With the $1,000 sponsorship, the 65-pound fiberglass pigs were purchased and shipped. Other money was set aside for artist materials and a stipend for their time and effort, with the balance to benefit United Way. Artists spent the majority of last month decorating the pigs and readying them for their close-up.
Following the private viewing for sponsors and artists Wednesday, the pigs were on view at the Arts Council on Thursday, when there was a mini-reception open to the public. The majority of the pigs will be placed around the downtown court square — and the rest at other notable locations around town — next week for the community to enjoy.
They will be displayed throughout the area all summer long from June 15 to Oct. 9. The pigs will also have the chance to be nominated for “Hammy Awards,” with the two receiving the most votes appearing in the Clinton Christmas parade.
Sponsors of pigs include:The Atrium Florist and Gifts, Sessoms Jewelry, Sampson Regional Medical Center, Clinton Medical Clinic, Clinton City Schools, Sampson County Schools, Murphy Brown, Matthews Drug, Prestage Farms, Partnership for Children of Sampson County, Smithfield Foods, Huff Orthopedic, Sampson Arts Council, Golden Corral, an “Honorarium” pig, the Clinton-Sampson Rotary Club, Piggly Wiggly, Hog Slat, a group pig for Harrells Christian Academy, Star Telephone Membership Corporation and the United Way of Sampson County.
Four local banks, First Citizens Bank, BB&T, Southern Bank and Trust and Patriot State Bank, jointly sponsored one pig. There are also two individuals who sponsored a pig each.
Most sponsors have already exercised their option to purchase a $200 ear tag for ownership of the pig. Five of the pigs are expected to auctioned off at the Court Square Street Fair in October, with all proceeds going to the United Way of Sampson County.
Similar endeavors have been undertaken in bigger cities with more resources. The effort from this county’s United Way, and the artists it was able to recruit, has come to fruition in less than four months — and the results are true pieces of original local art.
“I think our pigs rival any others I’ve seen,” said Nancy Carr. “It’s just unbelievable.”
“I think it worked because we were all dedicated to make it work,” said Ho. “Nancy deserves so much credit. She put together the best team to work with. It was definitely a team effort.
“To actually be here today is surreal,” she continued. “Every minute was worth it.”