Imagine actually wanting to kiss a pig |

Imagine actually wanting to kiss a pig

Kay Vasilakis
Nonprofit Spotlight
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kay Vasilakis

Most people would not want to touch their lips to a pig’s lips. But eight local people have been promoting themselves all summer to do just that. Tonight is the finale, and the pig-kissing will take place at the Two Rivers Park band shelter sometime after 7 p.m.

2008 Kiss-n-Squeal candidates are Ian Exelbert, Kathy Friesen, Mark Hanson and Quintin Anderson, Mike and Diana Sirko, Tami Sours and John Zeller. These brave souls have put their lives on hold, aligned themselves with pigs and fundraised their hearts out for YouthZone.

“YouthZone is an integral part of our community and provides essential services to our community’s youth and families,” said candidate Ian Exelbert. “I hope to teach my own kids the value of giving back to their community.”

2008 is the 18th year for the event, which started out as a one-time fundraiser but continued because community members wanted to keep the event going, and they probably wanted to see more of their friends pucker up. In 1991, the event’s first year, candidates raised $2,708, and Dave Church won the right to kiss the pig with 208 votes.

The highest amount of money ever brought in was $127,610 in 1999. Sandy Lowell brought in the highest number of votes: 52,486 in 2001.

Mary Jean Carnevale is YouthZone’s Queen of Pigs. She organizes everything down to the finest detail and coaches the candidates for successful campaigns. Over the years, she has gathered quite a collection of every kind of pig imaginable.

“Pigs take up 10 extra-large boxes,” she said. “It takes me a good day (8-10 hours) to put everything out. It’s like decorating for Christmas. And then the pigs must return to the ‘pig closet’ in Rifle until the next year.”

Not only does she pick up pigs wherever she goes, but people send her pigs. Angel pigs, with wings, started showing up in glass, paper, stuffed animals and postcards. Some humorous things she has received are a big toothbrush with pigs that go up and down the handle, pig lamps, a pig trash can, a pig made out of elk horn, a pig picture made from punching out holes (with a hole punch), a pig tea set, candles, banks, plant holders, pig slippers, beaded pigs, pig games, old toy pigs from garage sales, canvas work pig coasters, socks and pig pajamas.

“I even have the pig cutting board my dad made when he was in school,” she said.

You can be a part of the festivities. Voting will continue online at until 4 p.m. Aug. 6. Tonight’s event starts at 6 p.m. at the Two Rivers Park band shelter. A free barbecue will be sponsored by the Glenwood Noontime Rotary Club, and music will be provided by Carson Wilde and Harris Jackson, Glenwood Springs High School students. Donations can also be given at the final event until 6:40 p.m.

First prize of the raffle is $1,000 cash, with a second prize of $500 cash. The raffle will take place around 7 p.m., and then the candidate(s) with the most votes will kiss Big Mac the Pig.

Mary Jean says, “I have never personally kissed a pig. Very few people have. That’s why it is prestigious to be crowned the grand champion pig kisser each year.”

Kay Vasilakis’ “Nonprofit Spotlight” column runs every other Wednesday in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. She is the media coordinator for the Garfield County Human Services Commission. To contact her with a question or a news tip, call 384-9118 or e-mail kvasilakis@

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