The inaugural 219 Day at the Hammond Civic Center last year was an epic party with a rat pinata, fake mustaches, temporary tattoos, and “You know you’re from da Region if ...” whiteboards.

Revelers got to high-five Gary RailCats mascot Rusty the RailCat and celebrate all things Region with a guy with a White Castle slider head and a mayor in a sleeveless muscle shirt. This year, 219 Day promises to be even bigger and wilder, with a Michael Jackson impersonator on the dance floor, an arm wrestling tournament, an AC/DC cover band and a Ride the Rat mechanical bull.

219 Day returns to the Hammond Civic Center in 2017, though this year it falls on Feb. 18 because it's a Saturday. The popular Twitter comedy account Region Rat Rants, which has more than 6,700 followers, invented the holiday, which is based on a reference to Northwest Indiana's 219 area code and pays a tongue-in-cheek tribute to all things Region.

"Because played a part in creating , it's only appropriate that is seen as the illegitimate love child of Pierogi Fest," Region Rat Rants said in a Twitter message. "It is also only appropriate that 219 Day will be held on Feb 18. You can't get more Region than that."

Last year, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. made an official proclamation declaring Feb. 19 – 2/19 – a holiday, then staged a festival that drew thousands to the Hammond Civic Center. He has said it was one of the best-attended events at the Civic Center and he wants to make it an annual affair as large as Dyngus Day in South Bend.

This year's 219 Day celebration is dubbed Back in Rat, an homage to the classic AC/DC album "Back in Black." Souvenir T-shirts features a rat jamming on an electric guitar while wearing Angus Young's signature hat in a lighthearted reference to the Region Rat moniker used to describe Northwest Indiana natives.

It's free, and will run from 6 p.m. to midnight Feb. 18. 219 Day will feature the band Stormy Weather, the DJ Turn it Up! and the AC/DC tribute group Bonfire. It cost $5 to compete in the arm wrestling tournament or ride the mechanical bull.

Returning attractions include the party rock band Dick Diamond & the Dusters, temporary tattoos, a photo booth with props, and an official reading of the Hammond's 2017 219 Day Proclamation. Last year's proclamation made humorous jabs the the Region such as "living in the 219 Region ensures everyone knows how much better drivers they are than people coming from other area codes because we know how to drive around potholes and in snow and entitles people to celebrate July 4th as long and as loud as they want."

Region food will be on sales from vendors like Zel’s Roast Beef, White Castle, Freddy’s Steak House, Jodi’s Italian Ice, Lady’s Gourmet Popcorn and Jazzy Bones BBQ. There also will be plenty of Region-made craft beers, including 18th Street Brewery, Three Floyd’s Brewery, Byway Brewing, One Trick Pony, Crown Brewing and Figure 8 Brewing.

People can also buy 219 Day T-shirts at the event or online at www.store.219day.com.

For more information, visit www.219day.com.


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.