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Hog Days Annual Labor Day Festivals

August 21, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt one time Kewanee IL had more hogs in the area than people. Farmers produced hogs in this fertile region often on pasture. The days of confinement systems have changed some things, but the area’s hog heritage has not been forgotten. Each Labor Day there is a whole weekend of activities.

Hog Days, the biggest festival in Henry County, began as a simple barbecue to commemorate a proclamation. on Saturday, September 20, 1947, the USDA declared officially that Henry County was the “top hog” so to speak in America when it came to pork production. A barrow show was held to find the best hog of the many in the area, when farmers made a living raising hogs. In 1949, March 23rd to be exact, that the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 40 declaring Henry County and Kewanee the Hog Capital Of The World, a resolution introduced by Frank P. Johnson R-Kewanee. The festival is highlighted by the world’s largest outdoor pork chop BBQ – massive grills are set up for grilling yummy pork chops and butterfly pork chop sandwiches for the thousands of guests that crowd into the small town every year. Chop sandwiches are $3 each and pork patties just $1 – be prepared as lines are long near meal times!!
A carnival is set up on the downtown streets; there’s a large parade with floats, horses, officials and entries of a wide variety that happens on Saturday each year. It has been an annual festival since 1954.

For the past several years the Wednesday before the festival kicks off with – what else! – a barrow show at Black Hawk East community college which sets just a few miles from down town. This event was revived and is a big thing in the pig world. For those unfamiliar with pigs – barrows are castrated male pigs – their sole reason for existing is to become dinner…including the primped and pampered show pigs that take part in this show. Black Hawk East has long been an outstanding agriculture college and has a beautiful facility that welcomes people to watch these pampered porkers put through their paces in front of a judge with the objective of picking out the best one.

Friday night is a craft show and flea market, an annual pet show and musical entertainment.

A few miles out of town at another Kewanee landmark, Francis Park. Take some time to go through the tour of this place…we loved the windows that when raised pulled the screen automatically from below the window. The cooling and heating of this home, done long before electricity was the norm in rural areas, is something that is still useful today.

If pigs and cars aren’t your thing – the Kewanee Library holds an annual book sale or you can visit one of the largest furniture outlets in IL – Good’s Furniture, which is impossible to miss. Boss Gloves also has a large sale held on Saturday.

Saturday morning is a 4 mile walk/run, a kids run and a one mile race. There is an all day classic car show. At 2 pm is the Hog Days parade which winds through town. More musical entertainment is slated Saturday night.

Sunday brings still more activities…a tour of hog heaven bike ride and a hog wallow mud volleyball competition starts things off! There’s a garden tractor pull in nearby Galva, a Model T and A road rally, a pig tail contest, and a kiss the pig relay for life contest.

Monday – oh no we’re not done yet!! There’s the annual fly in pancake breakfast feed – no one leaves hungry but the lines can be long so bring your patience. Music entertainment is all weekend long.

<post from the archives, written August 2007. Still a cool festival to attend!>

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