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‘What Spokane needs right now’: Pig Out in the Park returns Wednesday to Riverfront Park

Aug. 26, 2022 Updated Fri., Aug. 26, 2022 at 9:52 p.m.

After three years of planning and rescheduling through cancellations, Pig Out in the Park is back. Over the course of the week, visitors will have the chance to sample a wide variety of food offerings, meet local artists and artisans, and catch more than 100 free musical performances by local bands.

“It’s amazing how many people have come up to me and said, ‘You know what Spokane needs right now? A really good Pig Out in the Park,’ ” founder Bill Burke said. “And I agree.”

As he started reading emails from local nurses and doctors about hospitals crowded from the COVID-19 pandemic, Burke canceled last year’s event with three weeks to spare.

“You never know what’s going to happen, but I have no intention of canceling now,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to ever hurt anybody … and from all indications … this year we’re looking pretty good.”

Returning for the first time since 2019, Pig Out in the Park will feature 55 food vendors with more than 250 menu items, 35 pubic market booths and four beer gardens offering a variety of adult beverages.

“You’ll never eat it all!” reads the promotional poster for Pig Out, which opens Wednesday and runs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Sept. 5.

When Burke started “Pig Out” back in 1979, his aim was to find a way of providing a music festival at no cost to attendees. And today, with more than a hundred free concerts on the program, music is still at the heart of the event.

“Post-COVID, we wanted to make sure we concentrated on local bands,” Burke said, mentioning his efforts to reintroduce himself and the festival to local musicians. “We made sure that they knew we were here to support them.”

Planning a free music festival is never, in fact, free. The cost of this year’s event has already surpassed half a million dollars – about $511,000, to be more precise. But between commissions on food sales, grants and sponsorships – this year, including their first presenting sponsorship from Gesa Credit Union – visitors can attend all performances at no charge.

This year, Burke received more than 500 applications for the final 112 performance spots.

“Most were from around the region, but bands from all over the United States want to play Pig Out,” he said. “We’ve got a great reputation out there in the world of producing a stress-free, big-crowd show – so people want to play at our event.”

The musical program features a variety of genres, including performances from Chicago rap group Do or Die, Tom Petty Tribute band Petty Fever and Heart by Heart featuring Steve Fossen and Michael Derosier, among others. For a full performance schedule and other event details, visit pigoutinthepark.com.

During the festival, visitors can find $5 menu items from every participating food vendor from 3-5 p.m. and 9-10 p.m. from Aug. 31-Sept. 5.

“It can be anything on their menu, they can change it by day, but each one of us has to come up with a $5 special,” Burke said. “We’re trying to make it as inexpensive as possible – and that’s one of the ways to do it.”

From first-timers to old favorites, the vendors at Pig Out all make the event worth repeating. This year, Burke has made a point of recognizing Azar’s Cafe for participating in every event since Pig Out began. Counting 2022, that’s 41 appearances.

“Karim (Azar) was one of the very first guys I ever talked to when I started putting this together,” Burke said. “And they’ve helped me ever since.”

As far as health precautions, Burke hopes visitors will take steps to stay safe.

“COVID changed everything,” Burke said. “If you want to wear a mask, please do – if you don’t want to wear a mask, I understand, but be careful. And yeah, let’s get back to living.”

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