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This year, searchlights will rake the night sky outside the Hammond Civic Center for the 219 Day celebration.

Attendees will walk down a red carpet, past 6-foot-tall gold papier-mâché Oscar statues with rat heads and get interviewed by a local actor from the Towle Theatre as though they're celebrities.

Hammond is planning another wild party to celebrate 219 Day, a recently made-up holiday to celebrate all things Region and poke fun at Region stereotypes. Invented by the popular Twitter humor account Region Rat Rants, legitimized by an official proclamation from Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, and staged by the city of Hammond, 219 Day is a reference to Northwest Indiana's area code and falls on Feb. 19, or 2/19.

But the actual celebration at the Hammond Civic Center rages on until late in the night and involves an adult beverage or two, so Hammond typically holds it on the closest Saturday night.

This year, 219 Day will be celebrated at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Hammond Civic Center, 5825 Sohl Ave. The theme is the Region Oscars.

"There are going to be some silly categories," McDermott said. "We're going to name a Region Rat of the Year in an awards ceremony."

The city's 219 Day planning committee has not yet finalized the categories, but possibilities include "most likely to get a Region tattoo," "most frequent WJOB caller," and "most likely to wear shorts in March."

Musical acts include Full House, a cover band that plays pop hits from the 1980s and 1990s, and Davy Knowles, a blues-rock guitarist from Chicago who used to play for Back Door Slam and opened for the Steve Miller Band in Hammond.

"He came highly recommended by the Steve Miller Band," McDermott said. "It was freaking awesome. We thought we'd try to get somebody who's on the way up."

Hammond again expects that 219 Day will draw a few thousand revelers to the Hammond Civic Center.

"The proclamation was one of the most viral things I have done," McDermott said. "It got thousands of shares and 10,000 likes. Then we had a party and people got excited. It gets a lot of social media traffic and a thousand pictures posted online. It's something to talk about in the Region that's positive, vibrant, and cool. We don't always have that in the Region."

Participating craft breweries include 18th Street, Byway Brewing, 3 Floyds, Crown Brewing, Offsquare Brewing and the Misbeehavin Meads meadery, Hammond Parks & Recreation special events coordinator Donna Muta said. Hammond-based Calumet Breweries, which is a liquor distributor and not a brewery, will distribute Budweiser and Copa Di Vino wine.

"People will come in on a red carpet so it feels like the Oscars. There will be a red carpet selfie booth and a lot of games people can play, like a giant Jenga, a giant Connect Four and eight-person foosball table," Muta said. "There will be a money machine that spits out fake dollars. Some of them will be marked for people to win prizes like leftover Festival of the Lakes T-shirts and leftover 219 Day T-shirts from last year."

New merchandise on sale both at the Hammond Civic Center and online will include new T-shirt designs and 219 Day stocking caps for both men and women.

Hammond is still working out many of the details but McDermott said the popular Region Rat pinata likely would be back.


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.