HILLSBOROUGH — Hog Day will return to its roots this summer, says a group of residents taking over the 32-year-old festival.
It’s also moving back to the third weekend in June and could be leaving downtown Hillsborough, organizers said.
The nonprofit Historic Speedway Group has tentatively agreed to host the festival at the Occoneechee Speedway on Elizabeth Brady Road, they said. Capital Ford of Hillsborough could sign on as a sponsor.
For decades, Hog Day was a fundraiser for the Hillsborough-Orange County Chamber of Commerce. Last year, the chamber changed the festival’s name to Hogg Day to honor James Hogg, a Scottish merchant who moved to North Carolina in 1774 and became a patriot leader. He is buried in downtown Hillsborough.
The Chamber’s board decided in January to cancel the event and focus more on membership services and developing the local economy and small businesses. Executive director Margaret Wood Cannell said it also had become a major undertaking for the two-person staff and volunteers.
The chamber is a private, nonprofit group supported by membership dues and private fund-raising.
The group now organizing the festival, including Hog Day “founder” Joe Crews, has only met a couple of times, said Jeff Woods, owner of Carolina Game & Fish in Hillsborough. He and organizer Craig Lloyd said they plan to keep the festival favorites, from the barbecue cookoff to local music, and add a few new activities.
Keeping Hog Day’s focus on local groups gives the community another way to raise money for scholarships, nonprofits, churches, fire departments and others, Woods said.
“We want to pull the community together,” he said.
Volunteers will be especially important this year, in part because the time for planning the event is short, Lloyd said. In a few weeks, they could post a list of wants and needs on the festival’s new website – hogday.org – so people can be matched with their interests, he said.
They also want to set up the festival so that it can be self-funded within the next few years, Lloyd said. The group could file for nonprofit status, making them eligible for grant money, he said.
Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said the Chamber made a good call when it decided to stop sponsoring the event, but the town is “very, very supportive” of the volunteer drive to keep it going. Chamber officials said they, too, are excited to hear about the group’s plan.
Lloyd said his father helped with those early Hog Days and several of the current organizers have worked together for years in the community, through the Chamber and in organizing previous festivals.
“It’s like a reunion for us, all coming back together,” he said.