Dove Creek residents, along with hundreds of their relatives and friends from across the country, celebrated Independence Day the old-fashioned way on Tuesday – with fireworks, games and lots of meat.
Some of the meat was still on the hoof.
The town’s 62nd annual Pick ’n’ Hoe celebration started at 9 a.m. with a parade and opening ceremony, but the big event was a pig chase in Weber Park at 2 p.m. Throughout the day, families engaged in activities that don’t happen at a typical big city celebration, such as grease pole climbing and a community dinner featuring about 2,000 pounds of pit-barbecued meat. Organizers estimated that more than 1,000 people showed up for what has become one of the town’s longest traditions.
Although Pick ’n’ Hoe has been around for decades, this year’s event was organized by relative newcomers. Tabitha Henderson, a former event planner, said she has lived in Dove Creek for just a year and a half, but she volunteered to help take over the Fourth of July celebration when she realized no one else planned to do it. Dove Creek resident Chelsea Garchar and her husband, Levi, also helped her organize the event, which was sponsored by numerous local businesses and assisted by dozens of volunteers.
“I’m all about keeping the legacy alive,” Henderson said.
She added a few things this year, such as a local art exhibit and several new vendors, but she kept the traditional pig chase. Adults and children lined up on the park baseball diamond to chase a pig, which the winner could take home or sell. For the earlier categories, spectators formed a ring around the diamond while children as young as 3 years old tried to catch a pig.
Noah Hobbs, 4, rushed to tell his parents after he caught his first pig. “I runned and grabbed it by its back legs,” he said.
He said he planned to keep it.
As the competitors got older, the pigs got bigger and harder to catch. From the 9- and 10-year-old categories upward, pigs came with a tag attached to a belt around their bellies. The first person to take the tag was crowned the winner. Even so, the competitions for adults were loud and sometimes violent, as numerous people piled onto the running hog or shoved one another out of the way in order to get to it. Competitors and pigs finished each chase without injuries, though.
Ellen Warren, a volunteer at the event, said the pig chase, along with the rest of the Pick ’n’ Hoe, is an important part of Dove Creek heritage.
“It’s just an old-fashioned Fourth of July,” she said. “It’s once a year in Dove Creek, and it’s the one day that the whole community comes together.”
The day would end with a 21-gun salute and a fireworks display put on by the Dove Creek Volunteer Fire Department.