Northwest Indiana celebrated the Region’s official “219 Day” holiday on Saturday night at the Hammond Civic Center, where hundreds of Region Rats gathered to enjoy a night honoring everything that our corner of the state represents.
The annual 219 Day is a way to celebrate the quirks and aspects of living in the Northwest Indiana region that only we understand. We root for the Cubs, or the Sox, or "Da Bears." We wear shorts when it’s cold. We know how to drive in the snow. We know you don’t mess with someone's shoveled spot in front of their house.
These ideas are all part of the 219 Proclamation, which makes 219 Day official.
“Last year was really successful, and we wanted to throw another party,” said Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., who was wearing his Region-inspired sleeveless shirt, top hat and fake tattoos. “I appreciate people coming out from all over the region to celebrate with us. It’s the middle of February, so let’s have a party and make everyone happy. It’s like Groundhog Day, but we have our own holiday," he continued.
Mayor McDermott created the event after Region Rat Rants, a satirical Twitter account, urged the Mayor to create the day. It has turned into a one-day extravaganza that draws people from all over Northwest Indiana to have a good time. The event last year was tons of fun, but the new additions made for an awesome 219 day of 2017.
People could battle it out in an epic arm wrestling tournament that boasted arm wrestling tables, and three referees. The mechanical bull had a crowd around it cheering for much of the night. The mayor even gave it a few tries. His best run was 13 seconds.
The event even had it’s own custom pinata. Instead of candy, it was filled with small fireworks and small liquor bottles. The event is adults-only, but attendees got a chance to re-live their youth by breaking it open and sharing what’s inside.
"The pinata was so much fun! They even managed to break the stick," said Peggy Glennie, from Highland, "I came tonight to have a great time."
Aside from arm wrestling, a pinata, and a mechanical bull, the event had beer. Lots and lots of beer. 18th Street Brewery, Byway Brewing, Figure Eight Brewing, 3 Floyds Brewing, One Trick Pony Brewing, Misbeehavin' Meads, and Burn ‘Em Brewing all showed up to share in the fun.
The event had more people than last year. Anne Anderson, an administrative assistant to the Mayor's office, was checking people in for the free raffle.
"It's going well!" she said. "People are coming from all over. I've seen people sign in from Chicago, Palos Heights, Chicago Heights, Merrillville, and Schererville. Even Valpo. It's great that the weather's been fabulous. It's been a lot of fun to watch this grow."
Everyone could get into the spirit of the event by getting a temporary tattoo from the Tattoo Lady, who had special designs just for 219 Day, featuring a rat. There was a photo booth, with a wide range of props to choose from.
“This looks amazing. There’s so much to do and I can’t believe it’s free! I’ll definitely come back next year,” said Tabitha Barham, of Hammond, of the event.
If all of that sounds like fun, there was also a lot of high-quality entertainment. Stormy Weather kicked off the night.
"I live in Hammond, and it’s my first year. One of my friends told me about it. I’ve had a great time. The music and the pinata, the beer have been awesome," said Oscar Williams. Rico Hampton as Michael Jackson rocked the audience by dancing one-on-one with a lot of people. Many of the night's acts had excellent crowd interaction. He even dressed up as a werewolf for “Thriller,” on top of executing every dance move perfectly.
The evening quickly got into full swing. Everyone rocked out to Bonfire, an AC/DC cover band out of Chicago. They covered all of the favorites.
The main event rocked the house until 11 p.m. Dick Diamonds and the Dusters had the crowd dancing, laughing and singing along. They did hits like “24K Magic” from Bruno Mars or the classics like “Sweet Caroline” and “Don’t Stop Believing.”
Everyone could enter a raffle for a gift bag totaled over $2,000 in prizes. It included fireworks, prizes from Purdue, and gift cards. The winner was announced at the end of night.
At almost midnight, which would mark the actual date February 19th, Mayor McDermott, sporting White Castle plastic sunglasses, read the proclamation, ending another very successful Region party.