Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Pig & A Dream (Come True)

Becker and Rene at the first Hogs for the Cause in 2009.
You know how some locals like to wax on nostalgically about the infant years of Jazz Fest? They like to talk about how the festival was so much better when it was held at Armstrong Park. How the musical lineup consisted of only indigenous acts like Pete Fountain, Fats Domino, and the Meters. How the crowd was nothing more than a few hundred locals who wandered over from the French Quarter and the musicians themselves. And how the modern era Springsteen-led Jazz Fest is a lesson in that bigger is not always better.

This is not one of those lessons.

In March 2009 I was coasting through my final semester of law school when Rene kept interrupting my internet surfing with talk of this pig roast that he and Becker Hall were hosting at the Fly on an upcoming weekend. So The Folk Singer and I made the drive down from Baton Rouge the night before and then headed out to the Fly to eat some pork (actually, TFS made us stop for lunch at Gott Gourmet on the way) and drink off the free keg donated by NOLA Brewing.

That first year "Hogs for the Cause" was actually a misleading title. There was but one pig, and it had been slowly turning on the battery operated rotisserie since the evening before. If I recall correctly, Rene and Becker had both camped out at the Fly to keep watchful eye over the inaugural cochon, because when you put all of your eggs in one basket you better make damn well sure said basket is delivered.

The crowd numbered probably 50-70 people, if I had to guesstimate. Richard Sutton from St. James was there. The Dread Pirate Robert Peyton was there shucking and chargrilling oysters. The Palm Room Hostess, a long lost blog character, was also present, as were several other friends and acquaintances who came out to support Rene and Becker. Anyone who was there the first year of Hogs will be quick to tell you how they went to Hogs before Hogs was cool.

Once the pig was deemed ready, Rene and Becker ferried it over to a table covered in butcher paper, where several of us began to hack away with our knives. There was no regard for presentation, no final lacquering of special sauce, and I don't remember seeing anyone use a plate or a fork or a knife. We tossed the prepared pork into an aluminum tray, and people just grabbed with their hands.

Hogs 2009 "Thank You" poster from Ben Sarrat, Jr.
A few months thereafter, Rene and I sat down for dinner with our women, and he talked about his big plans for the future of Hogs. His vision involved live music, ticket sales, and a team cookoff. I just kept nodding my head and thinking to myself, "I know that Rene is really bored living in St. Louis, but I didn't realize that he had taken up smoking crack."

Three years later, reality has surpassed Rene's vision by leaps and bounds. He and Becker have created a monster - a pork-centric, pediatric-brain-cancer-fighting monster that continues to grow with every year. The Folk Singer summed it up a few weeks ago, "All of these people are coming up to me and talking about Hogs for the Cause. It's crazy. Hogs is like a thing now."

And why should we be surprised? Who doesn't love pork, beer, and music?

But while the Hogs may get all the glory, it's the Cause which is most important. No doubt that fierce competition among the teams has fueled participants to keep raising the bar, and the quality of the food has accelerated the popularity and growth of Hogs. But porkpourri, Boss Hog passes, and the High on the Hog Grand Champion award are simply the means to support the Cause. The origin of the Cause can be traced back to a 4 year old known as "Pirate Ben," and you can read more about his story here. I have no doubt that on Saturday Ben will help deliver beautiful weather from up above.

Hogs has taken out a bounty on pediatric brain cancer, and the pot just keeps getting bigger. Come out to City Pork on Saturday to help out the Cause.

Hogs for the Cause
Saturday March 24th
City Pork
Gates Open at 10:30am


Anonymous said...

Keep up the great work guys. All the best on Saturday.

Maddog said...

Well said Peter. Great to hear some of the backstory. Looking forward to this year's event.