Local businesses get into the act

It's a fun, great way to get involved
and help out with Ribberfest scholarships

During the 1800s, Madison, Ind., was the hub for area farmers to bring their pigs to market. As a result, Madison was known as “Porkopolis.”
The Madison Ribberfest’s “Pigmania” concrete pig decorating contest is a fun way to support the community while giving a nod to the past. Any business or person in Jefferson County can participate by adopting a pig. The winning pigs are determined by judges, and a “People’s Choice Award” is selected by way of contributions at the festival. Money raised from “Pigmania” fund local scholarships for college bound graduates and students returning to college.
Kevin Watkins, who chairs the Pigmania committee, says the contest originally started with 10 businesses “adopting” pigs. Some of those original participants continue to carry on the tradition of giving to the community while honoring Madison’s past in a fun productive way. The City of Madison, Pets Doc, River Valley Financial (now German American Bank), VisitMadison Inc. (tourism office) and Andersons’ Sales & Service are what remain of the original 10. This year, this sounder of swine has grown to nearly 40 pigs.

Photo by Rhonda Pennington

LeTiscia Wilson and German American Bank CEO Matt Forrester pose with their Pigmania entry for the 2017 Madison Ribberfest. The bank, previously River Valley Financial Bank, is among the original participants in the 16-year pig decorating contest.

German American Bank continues the tradition of its predecessor, River Valley Financial Bank, through its participation in Pigmania. “We have always been interested in supporting events and activities in our community,” said Matt Forrester, German American Bank CEO.
“If we haven’t been part of the organizing. We certainly have been at the forefront. We believe that when our community thrives, our people thrive.”
Some of their past pigs included the Surfer Pig and the Blues Brothers Pig. The design of the adopted pig is a group effort from concept of the new creation to completion of the design. German American Bank, headquartered in Jasper, Ind., is taking an interest in this year’s entry, too. This year’s entry is currently known as the mystery man, with his name to be announced.  
Another long-time participant, Mane Attraction salon, has been involved for many years, missing only the first year. It is a family affair with brothers David and Mark Schmidt, plus mom, Ruth Ann Rudolech, through the years expressing their creativity while sticking to the theme of Ribberfest. Often, this has been a play on words with entries like Pulled Pork, Ham-n-Cheese and Chewbacon, which won last year’s People’s Choice Award. They won the Peoples’ Choice Award four times and the judges; award once, with their entry “Pulled Pork” winning both awards.
This year’s entry is titled the “Boars Nest.” Original designs can present a challenge. That’s why each year they usually start on the next year’s idea and design the day after Ribberfest. This year, they have a head start on next year’s design, which was inspired by an imaginative 10-year-old.
“It’s a fun, great way to get involved and help out with Ribberfest scholarships,” David said.
Each year the pigs are delivered in late spring or early summer to the businesses. Participants then can begin giving their pig a makeover. Some businesses choose only to make slight changes each year, while others completely transform their pig.
Madison Auto Collision has adopted a pig for several years. Specializing in paint, past pigs have featured movie themes such as “Transformers” and even one that changed colors with the temperature. It’s a fun way to demonstrate what they can do with paint while supporting the community. This year’s entry is still under wraps due to their recent expansion, opening a new location in nearby Scottsburg, Ind.  

Photo by Rhonda Pennington

Ruth Ann Rudolech and her son, David Schmidt are longtime participants and multiple winners of Pigmania for Mane Attractions salon. They are pictured with their new “Boar’s Nest” pig.

Blush On Main is entering the Pigmania scene this year. Its design is also under wraps, waiting for the perfect time to emerge. Expectations are to see a savvy sheik swine with a European flare, according to owner Mary Beth Boone. It’s too new to share or perhaps just making a fashionably late entrance.
This thriving “pork industry” continues to give back to the community. Money for the scholarships is generated from the silent auction of select pigs and the People’s Choice voting. Pigs selected for auction will have a sign in the corral with directions on where to text your bid. Previously, one pig designed by artist Eric Phagan sold for almost $500. It became a unique coffee table.
You, too, can contribute to the scholarship fund by voting for your favorite pig with a donation. Each dollar equals one vote. You can vote at businesses displaying the pigs or wait till they are corralled and displayed during Ribberfest at the riverfront. There you can view the pigs and donate/vote for your favorite. Collection cans will be placed by each pig.
Visit Madison Inc. has participated since the beginning. This year’s intern, Alex Strouse, went whole hog with the project. This year’s theme brought to play a pineapple – the symbol of hospitality. This symbol welcomes visitors with warmth and friendliness, which embodies the spirit of Madison.
Tawana Thomas, VisitMadison Inc.’s executive director, said, “What a great way for people to get involved in such a wonderful event but through Pigmania project of Ribberfest. It is community involvement at its best, and it certainly reflects on Madison’s welcoming hospitality.”
Past participant, Windy Hill Bed and Breakfast, has participated for many years with its pig, “Sparkles.” Windy Hill Bed & Breakfast owner Katy Ayers serves as the Madison Ribberfest Coordinator.

“I have been told Pigmania is the best part of the event. The creativity is remarkable,” Ayers said. She added that another fun tradition is taking pictures with the pigs. She urges visitors to the festival to post their pig photos to the Madison Ribberfest Facebook page.

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