Year of the (Painted) Pig ends
SALEM – The much-painted pig is gone. Long live the pig, at least, in memory and photographs.
It all started more than a year ago with the otherwise naked concrete pig in front of Henry’s Memphis BBQ on West Main Street.
Initially, after owner Henry Caldwell asked people to suggest what color the pig should be painted, it was a plain maroon. Salem High School’s colors are maroon and gray.
Then in the wee hours of April 10, 2009, a group of spirited Glenvar High School students, former students and a friend painted the pig Glenvar Highlander green with a gold G.
Though he might not have known exactly what the Glenvar supporters planned beforehand, Caldwell told responding Salem Police officers he didn’t mind.
Just after midnight a couple of weeks later on April 25, a group of Salem High School girls’ soccer players calling themselves the Salem Soldiers, took back the pig by painting it Spartan maroon with a big letter S in white. They also tied a camouflage bandana around the pig’s right ear, and added a pair of soccer cleats as a necklace.
The pig-painting war was on.
The final known group to paint the pig were members of the “Raging Bulls,” dancers with the Divine Dance Center in Roanoke. After they returned from their final dance competition of the year in Norfolk, Salem dancers met up at the pig on Thursday, July 22, with red paint to turn the pig into a raging bull, complete with horns.
The next morning, the pig was gone to a new, undisclosed home a Salem garden.
Salem dancers who painted the pig last week were Sarah Wilke, Courtney Boyd, Abbie Hoback, Bryn Burns and Allie Hoback, who had their photo made with the pig.
Bryn Burns’ mother, Lani Burns, explained in an e-mail note along with the photo, “We had been wanting to paint the pig at Henry’s for a long time, but with the upcoming competition practices, there was very little time. So, when we returned, we decided it was time.
“Funny thing is, it really was time. We painted the pig, took our photos and went on to eat ice cream. The next morning, I was driving down Main Street and lo and behold, the pig was gone! Well, as they say, ‘Timing is everything.’”
The pig was removed to a new, undisclosed home, still in Salem. “I sold it to a lady that has a pretty good-size piece of property,” Caldwell said Tuesday night.
“It stayed in Salem but I don’t want to give out her name and address so people won’t go there and start painting it again. Let’s just say it found a good home around her garden area.”
Caldwell closed the restaurant June 13 and leased the property to another business, initially saying he was considering moving the pig to his Roanoke barbecue restaurant. He even considered giving it to Glenvar High School mom Becky McConnell, who started the whole pig-painting process. She declined.
McConnell encouraged three of her children and their friends to paint the pig green-and-gold in the middle of the night during last year’s spring break. McConnell documented the Year of the Pig in photographs and scrapbooks, and set up a website for it.
Over the months the pig was painted, dressed, and had signs and, at times, had props including a hula skirt and lei, and a baby pig.
The pig morphed from high school athletic spirit to become a 3-D billboard of sorts that congratulated graduating classes, welcomed home military from Iraq and Afghanistan, wished numerous teens and adults happy birthday, and expressed sorrowful feelings when a former Glenvar football player died in an accident on West Main Street.
Some of McConnell’s – and the community’s – favorite painted pigs out of all the hundreds of paint jobs and costumes were:
• “Spidey Pig” in red-and-blue Spiderman designs; • a bright pink pig in memory of Janelle Mason;
• pig-turned-Glenvar Lion with shaggy black mane and signed by the Glenvar Lions team;
• a passionate purple pig painted for the Salem Relay for Life in June 2009 – which Relay supporters had to paint three times in about 24 hours to keep the relay message in between paintings by other groups, and
• a red-white-and-blue Support our Troops pig in honor of Charlie Graves serving in Iraq.
• There was even a Confederate battle flag pig.
“I was sad it was gone when it was gone because Henry’s birthday was Sunday and I would have liked to have painted it one more time,” It was good memories and I hope the town will remember it was fun.”
Few people signed their work or went public with their pig painting. For most of the first year until pig painting slacked off during the fierce winter, the Salem Times-Register ran a regular feature on the front page with a pig of the week photo.
Another pig that is painted less frequently remains in front of Bastian’s Barbecue on Apperson Drive in Salem.
The West Main Street pig is gone. Long live the pig in memory.