San Jose celebrates return of nostalgic dancing pig

A spirited crowd gathered near the San Jose Diridon station Thursday in eager anticipation to see the Stephen’s Meat Products iconic neon pig dance again — after a more than 10-year hiatus.

“I woke up with a smile on my face thinking the pig is going to dance again,” said Kim Walesh, San Jose deputy city manager and economic development director. “The sign is an important part of our history.”

Walesh was one of a handful of speakers to address a crowd of 300 or so people who flocked to the Montgomery Street lot for an evening of free hot dogs, ice cream and the opportunity to be one of the first to see the pig light up again.

The event was hosted by the San Jose Preservation Action Council which raised $34,000 for the sign’s renovation over the last two years.

The hot dogs were provided by Bassion Farms which purchased Stephen’s Meat Products in 2005. The new owners use the same recipes created by original owner Stephen Pizzo and although they don’t sell retail, fans can find them in various locales including Mark’s Hot Dogs, another one of San Jose’s old gems.

Pizzo’s grandson Stephen Morrison attended Thursday’s event and spoke briefly about how his grandfather started up the shop in 1940.

The sign was created a decade after the business opened and it’s the only remnant of the old factory which was demolished in 2007. Preservation Action Council President Andre Luthard noted that while no one was threatening to take the sign down, there was concern that — if left neglected — this particular piece of San Jose history would attract vandalism. As it is, the sign contains bullet holes which were glossed over with enamel during its refurbishment.

Now that Google has plans to build in the area, it’s possible that the pig might be relocated.

The Preservation Action Council hopes to create a “ grand boulevard” of neon signs somewhere in San Jose to commemorate their heyday. First or San Carlos streets could be two potential locations.

“When the car was king,” Luthard said, “that’s how businesses made their impression on you was neon signs.”

Contact Carina Woudenberg at carinaw86@gmail.com or follow @carinaew on Twitter.

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