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‘It’s good to be back:’ Pig Out in the Park returns to downtown Spokane after 3-year pandemic delay

Ablle Cas, left, and Shawn Fischer, right, get the first taste of their “block” of french fries smothered in cheese sauce Wednesday, Aug. 31 on the first day of Pig Out In The Park, the annual live music and food festival that runs through the Labor Day weekend.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

Triple-digit temperatures did not stop people Wednesday from munching on boats of fries and bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and keeping cool with tasty drinks and huckleberry ice cream at the first Pig Out in the Park at Riverfront Park in three years.

“It’s good to be back,” said Brian Dickmann, who ran the Pizza Rita booth.

Pizza Rita is one of the regulars at Pig Out, handing out slices of pizza and soft drinks since 1996 at the Labor Day weekend food fest.

“We’re the simplest menu here – pepperoni or extra cheese,” Dickmann said of the pizza options.

Dickmann started the pizza business in 1989 and sold the three Pizza Rita restaurants in Spokane and Spokane Valley earlier this year, but he was still helping out with the franchise’s booth at Pig Out.

Some vendors said Wednesday afternoon business was steady at the park, but the extreme heat limited some customer traffic. Storm and dust clouds from surrounding fires crept in by late afternoon. Dickmann said he expected his sales to improve this weekend.

People of all ages did brave the heat, though, to fulfill their hunger, including roommates Justin Prozora and Darien Didato. The duo were walking through the park with bacon-wrapped hot dogs.

“The world is slowly starting to pick its pieces back up,” Didato said of the return of Pig Out. “It’s good to see.”

Didato said he enjoys Riverfront Park because “it’s a good place for culture.”

“Every single memory I have of Spokane is in this park, because it’s mainly the reason I come out in the first place,” he said. “So, you know, if they’re going to have an event, I might as well come.”

Many Pig Out attendees, like Amy Wise and her husband, Ryan, sought shaded canopies to enjoy their food.

“We were hungry,” said Ryan Wise, a Navy veteran fresh off three deployments. “That’s why we came out.”

Amy Wise, who was eating Canadian fries with gravy and cheese on top, said Pig Out was a great way to spend time with her husband now that he’s back home.

Nev Cooney and his mother also came for the food and found shade a few tables from the Wise couple.

Cooney was eating a hand-sliced barbecue beef sandwich with cheese sauce and onions from Piggly’s Barbeque. His jalapenos, which he deemed “too hot,” were on the side.

His mother was digging into a boat of fries. Cooney said he and his mom came out for the food and to get out of the house.

Elle Porter, owner of Elle’s Huckleberry, set up a booth at Pig Out for the first time in about a decade.

“We wanted to come back,” Porter said. “We love doing it.”

The vendor sells huckleberry ice cream, shakes and sundaes. Porter said the business is famous for its deluxe sundae, which includes huckleberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce and huckleberry sauce, topped with whipped cream.

“It’s really, really good,” Porter said.

She said business was good Wednesday afternoon, and she expected it to be better Wednesday night as the temperature dropped.

“It’s actually been really busy for the first day,” Porter said.

The six-day food and music festival, which started in 1979, runs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Monday. It features 50 food booths, 250 menu items, 35 public market booths, 112 free concerts on four stages and four adult beverage gardens. For more information, visit