Business leaders pucker up

Article Published: Dec. 22, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Business leaders pucker up

High Country Radio Group's John Roten gives Hamm a kiss for charity.

Photo by Rob Moore

Area business leaders puckered up Saturday, and the squealing didn't just come from the crowd.

Ham, the official High Country United Way (HCUW) pig, was apprehensive as he was lead out onto a plastic tarp (for "accidents") during halftime of an Appalachian State University basketball game, and made his voice known.

"He was squealing away," Mountain Times Publications publisher Gene Fowler said. "It was terrifying."

To the proud puckerers (Fowler, Wachovia's Jason Triplett, High Country Radio Group's John Roten and Dave Blanks, HCUW's Ray Russell, and Blue Ridge Electric's Susan Jones), it was an experience they'll never forget.

"It was very wiry," Fowler said post-pucker. "Its hair was very wiry."

Ham was a bit larger than the last time the group gathered, at Wachovia Bank at the start of the Big Pig Kiss-Off initiative.

"It was a little one when we got it," Fowler said. "But it wasn't so little by the time we had to kiss the thing."

Business leaders were asked to meet a fundraising goal for United Way. If their respective teams met the goal, the leaders promised to pucker up, and Saturday they sure did.

"It was a worthwhile experience for the United Way, but I'm not kissing any more pigs," Fowler said. "No way."

At least not this year.

"I think the Big Pig Kiss-off has been a success, and I honestly think it could be a fun annual event," HCUW director Linda Slade said.

The initiative raised $36,728, and more money is coming in. That puts HCUW at just over 40 percent of its goal of $550,000.

"We're a little higher right now than we were last year on this date," Slade said.

And that squeals good news for area nonprofits that depend on HCUW for funding. HCUW supports 24 local partner agencies, including Hospitality House and Western Youth Network. For more information on HCUW or its partners, visit

One puckerer was missing from the lineup Saturday, WATA's Mike Kelly who had a family engagement. While John Roten and Dave Blanks filled in, Slade promises he'll get his chance with Ham. We'll have the details (when they're known) on our Facebook page,

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