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Courtesy photo

By ALEXANDER WILLIS

Shelly Sassen, executive director for the Well Outreach food pantry, is hoping the Whole Hog Festival will be the ultimate Spring Hill community event. 

Recruited to organize the event by John Maher Builders, the Well Outreach staff have planned for the festival dozens of vendors selling pork-based foods, live music by multiple acts including from the chart-topping Christian music band Carrollton, plenty of games and activities, as well as a $7,000 fireworks show to send the festival out with a bang.

But beyond the festivities, which Sassen hopes will attract thousands, arguably the most important part of the festival is what a successful turnout could bring.

“Our goal in doing this festival was to create a community event where we all come together and rally around our community and have a day of fun, but also come together to serve those in need,” Sassen said. “Part of that is public recognition and bringing the message of the Well to our community, and just creating opportunities for the Well to feed more hungry.”

With proceeds for the event going towards helping support the Well Outreach, Sassen said one of the primary beneficiaries to a strong turnout to the Whole Hog Festival would be children through its JetPack program.

Through the program, the Well Outreach partners with schools to provide nutritious, non-perishable food to underserved children of food-deficient households. The packs of food are discreetly placed in a child’s backpack or locker for them to later take home.

Currently, the Well Outreach is partnered with 18 local schools, but after discussions with Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Chris Marczak, at least five other schools have been identified as having a significant amount of hungry children.

Anyone can sign their child or children up for the program granted they attend one of the currently supported schools, with proof of need never required. Were the Whole Hog Festival to raise a significant amount of money, Sassen said increasing the number of supported schools would be a primary focus.

“This means so much to us because it’s our name at stake, but it’s also the opportunity that we feel like God is giving us, and also John Maher, that he’s giving us an opportunity to do great things for the Well,” Sassen said. “So everything we do, we’re trying to make decisions with integrity and just realizing that every dollar that we raise means that we can have money to feed more people.”

In addition to expanding its JetPack program, Sassen said a strong turnout could also help the Well Outreach explore the idea of expanding its current food pantry, which ultimately, would result in less hungry families.

It’s with these goals in mind that took Sassen to give the planning process for the festival “everything [they] had.”

“When we decided to take this on, we decided that we were just going to give it everything we had – that’s why we changed the name to the Whole Hog Festival,” Sassen said. “We truly are trying to incorporate food; Martin’s Bar-B-Que is bringing a whole hog in, we will have all kinds of pork products, everything from ribs, pulled pork, brisket, sausage on a stick, bacon items – chocolate covered bacon – pork rinds… it’s really going to be the whole gambit.”

So while pork, explosive firework shows and live music may be enough to draw plenty of guests, Sassen hopes that if nothing else, the cause of feeding the hungry may help the Whole Hog Festival to be the best event in Spring Hill of the year.