When pigs dance. Nick O’Hara of Grants Pass and Amy Maurer of Shady Cove took home the $1,000 grand prize in the 2006 SPAM Parade. - Photo by Ralph McKechnie

Hog wild in Shady Cove

There couldn't be a better way to celebrate the end of the world than a parade of potted meat down Main Street. But even when the world doesn't end, why stop the parade?

That's the idea that led to Saturday's eighth annual SPAM Parade and SPAM-O-RAMA 2007 in this Upper Rogue community.

This year's theme is "America Goes HOG WILD!" celebrating the main ingredient listed on a can of SPAM, pork, and coincidentally marking the Chinese "Year of the Pig."

With the blessings of the Hormel Meat Co., Shady Cove will once again be renamed SPAMville, U.S.A., for a day, and residents and visitors will be able to fill their plates on what many have called, "America's Wonder Meat;" as in, "I wonder what's in it."

The event will salute all service men and women with special honors going to World War II veterans, many of whom had their first taste of SPAM while in uniform.

It's also SPAM's 70th birthday, making it twice as old as Shady Cove, whose 35th anniversary of incorporation also will be celebrated.

"It's fun for all ages," said event coordinator, Laura Harms. "Especially with the carnival games, open air market, watermelon and pie eating contests and things like the SPAM Cook-off."

This year, Jackson County Sherriff Mike Winters will be the Grand SPAMarshal of the parade.

"Commissioner C. W. Smith will be my SPAMissioner again this year," said Harms. "He honors us every year by coming out."

Queen of the parade is once again Charlotte Boehm, who with her husband Ron, came up with the idea of the parade during the 1999 Y2K scare. People were talking about rationing and were stocking up on food.

Harms said the Boehms, owners of the Two Pines Restaurant in Shady Cove, wanted to do something fun that would take the scare out of the new millennium.

"They decided that the number-one American survival ration would be SPAM," she said. "The result is this parade and festival that now seems to have a life of its own."

"Charlotte will be our queen for as long as she wants," said Alma Spicer, who has been part of the celebration from the beginning.

Spicer particularly likes the queen's Mosquito Court, a bunch of ATVs buzzing around the queen's float as she rides down Highway 62.

"She's keeping things secret this year," said Spicer. "I know she has some plans, but I don't know what they are."

"We're scurrying around trying to get my float ready," said Charlotte Boehm. "I am the 'queen of much' and many of my subjects will be on the float with me."

Boehm wasn't willing to share all of her secrets, but did reveal that one of the subjects riding with her will be an unusual goat.

"We couldn't find a hog or pig," she said, "so we're using one of the goats from our restaurant and disguising it as a pig."

She said people will just have to come to the parade to see what happens.

"It involves things you'll never, ever guess," she said.

In a jam-packed day, $2,000 in parade prizes and an additional booby prize will be awarded by a panel of five judges, headed up by conservative radio talk personalities Rose & Garth Harrington.

There will be a number of antique and classic automobiles, and a contingent of Harley motorcycles, mixed with boats, bands and horses.

For the first time, the event is receiving contributions to help defray costs and Spicer wanted to spotlight Avista Utilities, who she said "gave us a nice hunk of money. They are a real major contributor."

SPAM-O-RAMA dance music during the festival will be performed by Chaylyn Gray and Southern Pride, and in the evening at the sports bar, the appropriately named band, Hog Wild, is on tap.

"It's kind of like Disneyland happening in Shady Cove," said Laura Harms. "Pony rides, a dunk tank, a jump house and so much more."

Shady Cove's celebration is one of only three official SPAM festivals held in the world, and while organizers have a good time, they also take it very seriously.

"People have some special memories of what they used to do with SPAM," said Harms. "It's one of those things that touches almost everyone's life, and it always brings a smile."

Bill Miller is a Southern Oregon freelance writer. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.

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