"When Pigs Fly In Porkopolis" Cincinnati by JeanCooke
Cincinnati Travel Guide: 614 reviews and 1,430 photos
High atop four smokestacks, fashioned like those on the steamboats that once plied the Ohio River is four winged pigs sculpted by Andy Liecester in 1988. Located along a mile-long riverside walk atop a forested knoll, the pigs fly over a miniature reproduction of the Ohio River. My twin sister, Joan, and I could only laugh with delight at the whimsical porcine sight.
Pig art is not for the sightseer who wants mainstream tourist fodder, nor for those seeking high culture, although with free admission we felt we had discovered Hog Heaven.
Founded in 1788 at the point where a Native American trading route crossed the river, Cincinnati was named in honor of the Roman general Cincinnatus. Cincinnati quickly became an important supply point for pioneers heading west on flatboats. Tens of thousands of German immigrants poured in during the 1830s. The busy port of Cincinnati transported pork so rapidly to consumer markets that by 1835 the city was the leading meatpacking center in America. By 1845 it led the world. Cincinnati was jokingly called "Porkopolis".
Cincinnati today is a dynamic commercial metropolis with a definite European and southern US flavor. Downtown Cincinnati lies in a valley ringed by steep hills and is just across the Ohio River from Kentucky.
As Joan and I "squealed with delight" at the piggish art we visualized Cincinnati's early 19th century German immigrant swine farmers herding pigs through these very streets.
BIG PIG GIG, OCTOBER 2000
The Big Pig Gig is a countywide public art event celebrating Cincinnati's Porkopolis heritage by showcasing emerging and established local artists. The Big Pig Gig is modeled after a public art project introduced in Zurich, Switzerland in 1998 and successfully replicated in 1999 as "Cows on Parade" in Chicago. The pig concept was developed by ARTWORKS, an arts-based employment and job-training program for youth in the Greater Cincinnati region. The program gives talented teenagers an opportunity to work, learn and earn in summer jobs as apprentice artists.
Corporations, small businesses, schools and private individuals sponsored pig artists living within 100-mile radius of downtown Cincinnati. Until October 31, 2000, nearly 300 artfully "dressed" pre-cast standing, sitting or walking fiberglass pigs went "hog wild" on the streets of downtown and inside businesses including the International Airport in Kentucky.
Cincinnati Tourist kiosk on Fountain Square advised us on local attractions including the Le Tour de Pork map we followed on our walking tour of the portly downtown porkers.
My favorite pig sculpture is Syler Davidson's Sow-tain on Fountain Square. Pork links and chops surround pigs on several levels. An upright pig stands on a pork barrel spitting water. While I took a picture of "Porkopolis" sprouting Cincinnati on its back, a homeless man approached me asking why I took pictures of pigs. My twin hightailed it to our car while I explained my love of these fancifully funny pigs and the history of Porkopolis. He listened patiently before asking for change.
Around Fountain Square, shopping is plentiful along with enough excellent homegrown restaurants to ensure that national chains have a low profile in the city. The downtown area of Cincinnati has been revitalized to reveal its old German heritage in restored 19th century-buildings. Fountain Square bandstand provides live music during lunch hour. As music played in the clear cool air we took in the breathtaking skyline of modern and historic buildings.
Speaking of food and skylines, Skyline Chili got its name when Greek immigrant Nichols Lambrinides saw the breathtaking view of the Cincinnati skyline from the kitchen of his small family-operated establishment. His descendents still personally mix the secret spices for Cincinnati Chili that is a hallmark of the city. I relish the chili and enjoy this remarkable treat on every trip. Get the 5-way chili: chili over spaghetti, onions, red beans and cheddar cheese. Ask for extra juicy (more chili) and extra cheese. To reduce calories, I drink water.
GRAETER'S FRENCH POT ICE CREAM
For desert nothing beats Graeter's unique French Pot ice cream, a local tradition since 1870 when German immigrant Louis Graeter set up his malted milk stand in Cincinnati. French Pots produce small batches of very dense, rich, ice cream every 20 minutes. No air is whipped in as with today's modern ice cream production plants. All this spells "delicious" and don't dare calculate the fat and calories. I made a hog of myself devouring Skyline chili and Graeter's ice cream.
Other points of interest in Cincinnati include Cincinnati Art Museum, Union Terminal Museum, Taft Museum, and operating replicas of riverboats. Riverboats from all over converge for the festival of the Tall Stacks every four years in October. The Cincinnati Reds baseball games have great local support and are fun to attend. Cincinnati is called "the Forested City" which was beautifully dressed in fall foliage for my visit.
Staying in downtown Cincinnati for the budget traveler is difficult. Expect to pay from $60 on up. Best bet for cheaper accommodations is 2-3 miles north or across the river in Covington or Newport Kentucky with easy access to downtown Cincinnati. Lovely bed and breakfasts are available.
Information about the pigs can be found on BigPigGig.com. A 208-page hardcover book tells the story behind the Big Pig Gig and Cincinnati's Porkopolis past. There is nothing "boar-ing" in the $34.95 book available through the web-site.
On the Internet for Cincinnati: http://travel.yahoo.com/t/North_America/United_States/Ohio/Cincinnati/; Graeters.com; skylinechili.com. For fans of the hilarious TV sitcom "WKRP Cincinnati" go to http://freepages.tv.rootsweb.com/~eeyore/wkrp/index.html for show scripts.
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