ALAPAHA, Ga. – Residents of this small farming town gathered Saturday to celebrate Hogzilla (search), a 12-foot-long wild pig that was supposedly shot by a hunting guide last summer and quickly grew into a worldwide legend.
The festival comes five months after the 1,000-pound hog was killed when it wandered out of swamps along the nearby Alapaha River (search), a haven for swine that escape pig farms and start living off the land.
The prodigious porker was remembered with a hog-calling contest and a greased-pig chase, as well as a float featuring a life-size replica of Hogzilla.
"Everybody is happy, smiling, excited. We're going hog wild," said Becky Davis, an organizer of an annual community gala that was held this year with a Hogzilla theme.
The hairy heavyweight supposedly measured 12 feet with 9-inch tusks, said Ken Holyoak, owner of the hunting plantation where the hog was killed near Alapaha, about 180 miles southeast of Atlanta.
But few have actually seen Hogzilla. Holyoak's only proof is a photo showing the guide with the beast dangling from a rope. Holyoak says Hogzilla was too old to butcher and too big to mount, so he buried the carcass in a grave marked by a white cross.
Festival organizers were initially skeptical of adopting a theme that confirmed Hogzilla's existence, so they chose to focus on the Hogzilla legend.
Holyoak said he has been interviewed by 200 newspapers and at least 24 television stations, as well as numerous radio broadcasts.
"It's been on the radio from Canada to Russia," he said. "I didn't know people would go that crazy over a hog."
The legend has propelled Chris Griffin, the guide who supposedly shot Hogzilla in June, from relative obscurity to celebrity status.
"They ask for my autograph," he said. "I've gotten used to it, but before it kind of freaked me out. I wasn't used to that much attention."
Asked if there could be more giant hogs in the swamps — perhaps a Hogzilla heir — Holyoak replied: "If there's one, there's a possibility of more."
Lisa Whitley said friends in Atlanta asked her for Hogzilla T-shirts.
"They were wondering if it was really that big," she said. "But it really doesn't matter. Alapaha is famous. It's great for the area to have something to celebrate."