Pigtown gets some airtime


August 15, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Forget the city-financed hotel and tourism slogans. Seems all Baltimore needs to reel in out-of-towners is pigs - pigs going to slaughter. Or rather, a festival celebrating the doomed porkers.

The annual Pigtown Festival is one of Baltimore's quirkier events - and that's saying something - recalling the days when pigs were herded from the B&O and Union rail yards to the slaughterhouses of South Baltimore. Highlight: the Running of the Pigs, a sort of porcine Pamplona, except the pigs tend to take their time along Washington Boulevard, just as they did when they really were headed for the abattoir. (Hey, if you had a date with Oscar Mayer, would you be in any hurry?)

This fun but relatively obscure event - it usually attracts 5,000 to 7,000 - has suddenly become a national travel destination, thanks to AirTran.

Hoping to perk up late-summer travel and play off the date 8-8-08, the airline ran a one-day "Crazy 8s" sale last Friday, offering deals on travel to eight cities, each with its own "wacky and wonderful" event.

Along with Pigtown, the airline highlighted events built around Buffalo wings in Buffalo, N.Y.; hot sauce in Houston; "salami roulette" and other things allegedly Italian in Indianapolis; mushrooms in Philly; bugs in Raleigh; something called "art cars" in San Francisco; and the 150th anniversary of Jasper, Ga., which, in a curiously ham-centric coincidence, includes a "greased pig chase."

AirTran came up with the list after a couple of staffers Googled the cities the airline serves, looking for oddball events, said Tad Hutcheson, AirTran's vice president of marketing and sales.

Anybody bite?

"It was the best sale we've ever had on a Friday in a summer," he said. "Demand was up incredibly."

Ticket sales were up for all eight cities, with the biggest jump for Baltimore. Hutcheson wasn't talking numbers but said the Charm City increase was "in the double digits."

"It surpassed our wildest expectations," he said.

Same goes for Pigtown Festival organizers, who had no idea AirTran was promoting the free event, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 6, until thousands of people found their way from the airline's Web site to the festival's.

"All of a sudden, the guy who manages [the site] said, 'We're getting a ridiculous amount of views,' " said festival director Adam Van Bavel. "We had about 7,000-plus views in the couple days it was up. ... It's pretty cool to have something so random come in and give us some spotlight that I think we deserve."

Donald Phillips, president of the Citizens of Pigtown Community Association, is confident no one who makes the trip will be disappointed.

"You can go to almost any city in America and find a festival," he said. "I don't mean to be arrogant about it or anything, but you can't find this kind of uniqueness anywhere else. It's a secret. Someone found it."

Emoting while wet - your ticket to fame

Good news for area actors, particularly those who can play CIA types - and hold their breath.

Xterminating Angel Films has issued a local casting call for a film to be called The Waterboard.

"The Lead: Caucasian male, age late 20s to late 30s, Government agent/CIA type, 5'9" or taller, in decent to great shape, good looks a plus, predatory presence, well-dressed. A sociopath with no conscience.

"The Secondary: Caucasian, latin or bi-racial male, age late 20s to late 30s, also government agent/CIA type, 5'8" or taller (shorter than lead), in good shape, must be able to lay down in a prone position for good lengths of time. Must not have a problem with getting wet. Must emote well."

You could sue, but better to get new dogs

Nothing like dead dogs to get people riled up.

The Sun's Doug Donovan recently wrote about a Prince George's County police raid at the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo. The mayor's wife was wrongly suspected in a drug ring. Police burst in, shot the family's two Labrador retrievers and tracked the blood all over the house. Calvo and his mother-in-law were handcuffed for hours. When the mistake was finally cleared up, the Calvos didn't get so much as a "whoops" from the cops.

The part about the pooches got readers far and wide. Here's one of more than 100 missives:

"Sir, I'm in Baghdad Iraq," wrote Ricardo Carvalho. "I serve the people of the United States as a soldier of 20+ years in the United States Army. Having large dogs myself, I feel the pain Mr. and Mrs. Calvo must be going through. ... I would like to donate money to them to help defray the cost of replacing their pets. Or if they prefer to use it to sue the PG County Sheriff's Office. Personally, I feel that replacing the dogs would help start the healing process, whereas the lawsuit won't bring dead dogs to life."

Connect the dots

Another one of those "Who's who" lists just came out, this one from PolitickerMd.com. "Power List 2008" intentionally left out anyone in elective office as well as "the living former Governors and United States Senators," the Web site notes. So why's Bob Ehrlich No. 4? Hate to break it to you, Politicker, but the once-and-he-hopes-future-gov is still kicking. ... Among the more interesting Power Listees: "Martin Watcher," the mysterious Martin O'Malley foe behind omalleywatch.com. He ranked No. 9. ... The black bear captured in Arbutus this week gave the Arbutus Roundtable something besides politics to talk about. Clem Kaikis, co-owner of Paul's Restaurant, said the animal came within a half-mile of the place.

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