219 Day – the annual all-things-Region shindig celebrated on or around Feb. 19 – is cementing its place as an actual Northwest Indiana holiday as it returns for a third year to Hammond.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott announced on Twitter he would bring back the light-hearted, quirky celebration of all things Region, which is intended to be like an indoor winter version of Whiting's Pierogi Fest, a goofy festival with broad stereotypes and smirking self-deprecation. This year's 219 Day is slated to take place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17 because Feb. 19, an allusion to the Region's 219 area code, falls on a Monday when fewer would be inclined to stay out late.
McDermott said this year's theme would be "feats of strength" and include "games and challenges designed to test your testosterone levels."
The celebration, put on by the city of Hammond but open to all who call Northwest Indiana home, has featured a Region Rat pinata, a mechanical bull, local food and craft beer, a Michael Jackson impersonator and Northwest Indiana bands like Dick Diamond & The Dusters. McDermott said 219 Day would again take place in the Hammond Civic Center, and that more information about the particulars of this year's event would be coming soon.
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Thousands have attended in past years, and taken part in new traditions like arm-wrestling, completing the sentence "you know you're from the Region if..." on a whiteboard, and waiting in long lines for locally brewed craft beer.
This year, Hammond has designed a "less offensive T-shirt without the Region Rat for those 'fancy pants' residents who are too easily offended by the rat logo," McDermott tweeted. It features a colorful "219 Day" outline that looks like it was chalked on the sidewalk and that's filled in with the names of various Region communities including Hammond, Crown Point, Dyer, Gary and Valparaiso.
The popular local Twitter humor account Region Rat Rats invented the holiday as an occasion to poke fun and pay tribute to all things Northwest Indiana, such as the Region's diverse ethnic makeup, love of smoke shops and fireworks stands, and steady diet of Zel's roast beef and refinery air pollution.
Anyone who's interested in sponsoring the celebration should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Hammond Civic Center at 219-853-6378.