I've been searching all day for the right words to describe what happened at Hoggfest yesterday. Ed Cone found them first. David Wharton expresses the same with his photos, and Jay Ovittore and David Hoggard with their gratitude for the whole experience. Woody Cavenaugh sums it up nicely: "I can't think of a single time in my life I was surrounded by so many genuinely nice people as [I] was at HoggFest."
I had planned to go and help out for the afternoon. After being there a few hours, I soon realized that there was no better place to be in Greensboro yesterday than among that group at and around the Flatiron, gathered for the purpose of raising money and showing support for Jinni Hoggard 's trouncing of breast cancer. I stayed 'til the clock turned Monday.
Of all the great moments, great community vibes, great music and great food, perhaps the greatest single accomplishment of Hoggfest was one that won't be tangible for many years. It's the gift that we, a diverse, flawed, sometimes petty and selfish group of adults, gave a great group of kids.
You could see it in their eyes. When they left the basketball court, the balloon lady, or the moon bounce long enough to peruse the food table for another piece of chocolate or barbecue sandwich, they were an absolute mirror to what they saw going on around them. Carefully observing the adults laughing, socializing, teasing, and serving each other - fully immersed in it like a reef of little sponges - the kids instantly understood that this was a safe place, more family reunion than public gathering in a downtown park.
Someday, when those kids are adults, a friend or neighbor of theirs might need some help. By that time they may have forgotten Hoggfest 2005. But because they were there, the Hoggfest kids will instinctively know the right thing to do in that situation: circle the wagons, fire up the pig cooker, and wrap those friends and neighbors in a warm community embrace, assuring them they are not alone in this world -- that no matter what, they have friends who love them and who will not abide a loss of hope.
Late in the evening, the benefit's raison d'etre, Jinni Hoggard, was huggin' and kissin', bringing people drinks and making them feel welcome and wanted, as she had been doing all day long with unfathomable reserves of energy. She suddenly stopped smiling and approached a few of us sitting outside the Flatiron to share what was bothering her.
She had spotted a woman on the other side of the darkened street, pulling a battered suitcase behind her, probably looking for a safe place to sleep. Jinni wanted to make sure that that woman knew she was welcome to every bit of food we had left.
Here's to the Hoggfests of the future, whatever their name might be. Here's to the Hoggards, who live the example of a community with arms open to everyone. Here's to everyone who contributed - and that is everyone who was there. And here's to Greensboro, for being such a place where such a thing just seems to come naturally.
And a standing ovation to Roch Smith, Jr., whose tenacity and commitment slays the logistics dragon every time. You make it look easy, buddy.