Hiawatha Lions Club members have decided to call it quits on Hog Wild Days, a four-day event held every June since 1983.
Carnival rides, Bingo sponsored by the Hiawatha American Legion, a beer tent, flea market, games, and free entertainment stole the show every June for the past 31 years.
According to Larry Sheppard, one of the organizers for the event, said the construction
of the new pavilion in the park was probably the biggest obstacle that led to the organization’s decision to let it go.
He said the design of the drainage system didn’t fit the needs of vendors, as well as the planned activities, and though the people involved talked about it at length, they could make it work.
“We’re sorry to see something like this go,” he said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t come up with a solution that fit the needs of all parties.”
He added that the annual event will be missed, not only by the residents and the businesses, but also by those who made the trek to Hiawatha annually just for the parade and the fireworks.
“I have people come up and tell me they’re disappointed the rides and games won’t be available this year, but it’s the parade and fireworks that most people will miss,” he said. “Those two things were the highlight of the event for most people.”
Sheppard added there were other issues besides the drainage problem, such as the rise in expenses over the years.
“The proceeds from the event, which were only a couple thousand dollars when all was said and done, was given to other organizations in the community, as well as to help with the Kids Sight program,” he said. “We received so many donations for the events, including prizes for the games, and we had some really great prizes, but everything was so expensive. We were lucky we made anything at all. But we really did it more for the community, so they could have a good time every summer.”
Hog Wild Days began as a cooperative effort between the Otter Creek Lions Club and the Lions Club of Hiawatha, according to Lions Club member, Craig Clark.
“Our intention was to bring a community fundraising event to Hiawatha that would promote the Lions Club and the city, and to provide a fun-filled pleasant evening with a beverage tent, Bingo, and free local stage entertainment,” said Clark.
The following year, according to Clark, the Otter Creek Lions decided to bow out and Hiawatha Lions Club took the entire event on as their own.
According to Lions Club member, Bart Sheppard, Hog Wild Days was an event that many people looked forward to every year.
“This event was administered and organized solely by our club,” he said. “What seems to be the next best secret is that Hog Wild Days was completely nonprofit … that means every dollar spent was basically a dollar given back to the community. One of the reasons we continued it for 31 years was because of the joy, service, and happiness we all receive from volunteering. In our society today, we feel it is important to remember and support our local communities in which we live.”
The younger Sheppard said that though they will no longer hold the event, the members will continue to volunteer and raise money for the needs in the local community.
“That is after all, the heart of the Lions Club. To create and foster a spirit of understanding among the people of the world, to promote the principles of good citizenship, to take an active interest in the social and moral welfare of the community, to provide a forum for open discussion of all matters of public interest, to encourage service-minded people to serve their community, without personal financial reward.”
Echoing the sentiments of the members of the Hiawatha Lions Club, Clark stated, “After 31 years, we can say generations have participated in and enjoyed the four days in June called the ‘Hiawatha Hog Wild Days’.”
“We had a lot of fun,” said the elder Sheppard. “And it’s not like the Lions Club is going anywhere. We’ll be around, doing what we can to help out in the community. Like so many, we’re just sorry to see such a fun celebration go.”