In his otherwise-excellent Tuesday newsletter this morning, Kevin Williamson excerpts a bit of “news” about Ohio that I assume is meant to be unflattering. He quotes the kicker from a Cincinnati Enquirer story about how the “flying pig” became a symbol of the city (my hometown). That kicker includes a revealing detail: that two women sported flying pigs as lower-back tattoos.
I fear that readers will come away from Kevin’s presentation with an incomplete understanding of Ohio generally, and Cincinnati specifically. As I mentioned, the excerpted article is about how the flying pig became so ubiquitous as a city symbol. It seemed to have started with a 1988 sculpture by British artist Andrew Leicester, who topped a 1988, city-bicentennial installation of four smokestacks (a callback to Cincinnati’s river history) with four winged pigs. But, according to the Enquirer, this sculpture drew from the city’s past, symbolizing “Cincinnati’s pork processing history – and the pigs’ ascent into heaven.” Cincinnati was indeed once a major pork-processing center — along with the more-regal nickname “the Queen City,” it has also been known as “Porkopolis” — though, as the Enquirer notes, this was a somewhat sordid occupation at the time, even if Cincinnatians have embraced this legacy now.
At any rate, though there are also other pig statues scattered through the Cincinnati area, arguably the major contributor to the flying pig’s Cincinnati ubiquity is the Flying Pig Marathon, the city’s flagship race, which also includes other races on the same weekend, such as a half-marathon run the same day. The name was suggested as a joke but then actually used when the race began in 1999. Flying Pig executive director Iris Simpson Bush (to whom those two ladies proudly showed off their tattoos) credits the out-there yet uniquely Cincinnatian symbol with the enduring popularity of the race and of its associated gear. I can attest to this personally. In addition to being from Cincinnati, I won the 2018 Flying Pig Half-Marathon:
The Flying Pig is not only an enjoyable race thoroughly committed to its pig theme but also a credit to Cincinnati and to Ohio at large. It is not something to be embarrassed about. Usually, it’s the first Sunday in May. But for COVID-related reasons, it is being held on Halloween this year. There’s still time to sign up, and discover whether you, too, can fly.