Largest Big Shanty Festival draws more than 300 vendors
by Lindsay Field
April 21, 2013 12:00 AM | 3148 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Boss Hog, also known as Jerry Johnson, owner of Piggy City, adjusts some of his creations during Saturday’s festivities.<br>Kelly J. Huff
Boss Hog, also known as Jerry Johnson, owner of Piggy City, adjusts some of his creations during Saturday’s festivities.
Kelly J. Huff
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One Big Shanty Festival vendor said the annual event helped his business get a good start and grow from offering his homemade doggie treats in just one store to 25.

Lose a Finger, which is a company that specializes in making “all-natural, dangerously delicious” dog treats from scratch, is owned by Marietta residents Bob Otis and Sonia Beard.

The couple is just one of more than 300 vendors participating in the 37th annual Big Shanty Festival in downtown Kennesaw on Saturday and today.

Using a recipe from Otis’ barbecue cookbook, Beard made dog treats for family members one Christmas and, after seeing that they were a hit, Lose a Finger began. The first location to sell their product was Good Dog Co. in Kennesaw.

“We first decided to participate in the (Big Shanty Festival) because we wanted to meet some of our customers who shop there in person and direct them to where they could go to buy our product,” Otis said.

Now, after nearly three years in business, Lose a Finger dog treats can be found in 25 locations northeast of metro Atlanta.

It sells six original flavors in various treat sizes, including three smoked meats, peanut butter, cheddar cheese and banana, as well as gluten and grain free, and they cost between $6 and $12 per bag.

“We’ve continued to (participate in the festival) because it’s a good show and they get a good crowd,” Otis said.

Another Big Shanty vendor is Jerry “Boss Hog” Johnson, who lives in Hiram but has been selling his one-of-a-kind piggy banks at the Kennesaw festival for about 10 years now.

“They are custom made and no two are alike,” he said. “I’ll do anything your imagination could create.”

The decorative pigs, which can be found in all shapes and sizes and are priced from $15 to $95, is something Johnson started crafting about 40 years ago.

“It started as a hobby or pastime and has become my occupation,” he said.

The name of Johnson’s business is Piggy City USA.

“I used to say to people, ‘Whatever you ask me to do, I’ll put it on a pig,’” he said. “I do what nobody else will do.”

The pigs are individually created for the customers, but all have two signatures from the artisan: a Jesus fish on the bottom to remind customers that Johnson is a Christian and a heart on each pig’s rear end.

Biggest event ever

John Loud, the owner of Loud Security Systems and the festival sponsor’s hospitality chair, said it’s vendors like Otis and Johnson that keep participants coming back and has helped with the continued growth every year.

This year’s festival includes 280 arts and crafters, 40 food vendors and 85 sponsors in all, the biggest event to date.

Loud said they also sold out of arts and crafts space and there was about a 10-person waiting list.

“This was the first time ever where we’ve not had enough room,” he said. “We’ve got arts and crafts vendors from all over the Southeast who are eager to get into, especially with 80,000 people expected to come between the two days.”

With money from the sponsor fees, the Kennesaw Business Association and City of Kennesaw have raised nearly $100,000 and plan to meet or exceed that next year.

“The money goes back to schools, food banks, community activities,” Loud said.

The Big Shanty Festival will continue today from noon to 5 p.m. in downtown Kennesaw. For more information, visit kennesawbusiness.org.
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