May 29, 2002 11:00 pm
All ABOARD: The Island City Lions' Pig Train will be a new feature at this year's Hog Wild Days. (The Observer/laura Mackie-hancock).
All ABOARD: The Island City Lions' Pig Train will be a new feature at this year's Hog Wild Days. (The Observer/laura Mackie-hancock).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

"It's kind of a panic right now as vendors figure out it's this weekend," Island City Lions' Hog Wild Days Chairman Al Weatherman said Wednesday about the event that begins Friday.

And when about 165 flea market vendors start panicking two days before an event, the phones start ringing off the wall. But it's all in good, clean, family fun.

Weatherman, heading up about 40 other Island City Lions Club members and other volunteers are ready and eager for this weekend's 24th annual Hog Wild Days celebration.

Events kick off Friday afternoon with the opening of the flea market and with a smoked pork barbecue from 5 to 7 p.m. The meal will be served at Island City Elementary School.

The big excitement this year is the first public Hog Wild Days parade officially led by the Lions' pig train.

Seeing a vendor's train in the past, Weatherman and Jerry Foster decided they could design a train just for the community, and the rest of the club pitched in to build and decorate the eight-car train.

Weatherman's lawn mower — renamed "the big sow" — provides power for the train, while club members vie for the coveted "pig train driver's licenses" required to operate the contraption.

With a hearty chuckle, Weatherman promises that the biggest smile at the parade at 11 a.m. Saturday will certainly be on Ozzie Asemissen's face.

"He just passed his driver's test," Weatherman said, noting that Asemissen was one of the original founders of the celebration. "He got this all going," Weatherman said.

But driving the pig train to lead the parade, well, that has Asemissen "about to burst his buttons."

The pig train will offer rides for $1 each, for five minutes, in Island City Friday afternoon and evening.

The flea market along the streets of Island City will be opening after 4 p.m. Friday and keep going until dusk.

The flea market reopens at 8 a.m. Saturday and again Sunday, closing in late afternoon Sunday.

The Lions, who operate the flea market, promise families that vendors are forbidden to sell sexual, obscene or offensive items, and those who try will soon be talking to a member of the club.

This year's menu will feature the barbecued meat, corn on the cob, baked beans, cole slaw, bread and drinks. Adults will pay $6.95 for the meal; those 10 and under, $4.95.

The meal, along with other fund-raising efforts throughout the weekend, are the main sources of income for the Lions, with 100 percent of what they make going back into Island City projects and programs for children in the community, Weatherman stresses.

"Every penny of this whole thing goes right back into city projects and projects for the kids," he repeats several times.

Food and fun hit full stride Saturday morning, with the annual La Grande Rural Fire Department's pancake, egg and sausage feed.

The fire hall doors open at 6 a.m. for serving, with late risers welcome until 11 a.m. The breakfast costs $4 for adults and $3 for children for all you can eat.

Those who'd like to get some exercise in before breakfast can sign up at 7:30 a.m. at the La Grande Country Club along McAlister Road for the Hog Wild Days Fun Run.

Runners in the Hindquarter 10K, the team relay and individual runs head off at 8:30 a.m., running for vouchers that can later be redeemed at the flea market.

Jerry Sebestyen, 963-4612, is organizing the fun run events and promises a fun way to make room for more taste treats during the weekend.

Hanging around the elementary school throughout Saturday will be Smokey B ear and Sparky, sponsored by the La Grande Ranger District of the Wallowa Whitman National Forest and Pendleton Grain Growers Cooperative.

And then, at 11 a.m. Saturday, Ozzie Asenissen finally gets to drive the pig train at the head of the parade. Island City children have been chosen to ride in the parade, tossing out candy along the route.

The parade is open to anyone who wants to participate. The lineup begins at 10 a.m. along D Street. It will move along Highway 82 for a few blocks, turn right onto McAlister Road and then end just past Fred Beeman neighborhood Park.

Anyone who needs more information on the parade can call Dee Weatherman at 963-3540.

As a special part of the parade, the United Motorcycle Club International will be having a Teddy Bear Run, asking for donations of the stuffed toys to be donated to local charities after the run.

And don't forget to stop at the park, where the Xi Alpha Mu Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi will be hosting Saturday's arts and crafts show.

Weatherman smiles between ringing telephones.

His advise to making the weekend perfect: "Come out and have a good time, and remember that 100 percent of everything goes back to the community and the kids."

Reach T.L. Petersen at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it