From the Archives: The trials of Sham Hock, mascot of Ventura’s St. Patrick’s Day parades

From the Archives: The trials of Sham Hock, mascot of Ventura’s St. Patrick’s Day parades
March 14, 1998: The giant green pig float Sham Hock makes its way past the San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura during the annual St. Patrick's Day parade. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Sham Hock did not lead a charmed life. Sham Hock, also named Pig O’ My Heart, was a 12-foot-by-20-foot inflatable pig that marched in Ventura's annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The origins of Sham Hock are mentioned in a March 13, 1990, Los Angeles Times article. The Times reported that “former [Ventura] Mayor James L. Monahan, the grand marshal, will set the mood by carrying ‘Paddy's Pig,’ a green-dyed piglet, as the parade travels south along Main to its final destination at Ash Street.”

The Times article added that the pig’s “nontoxic coloring can easily be washed off.”

Animal rights activists objected. The live green pig idea got replaced. The grand marshal carried a green toy pig.

The March 17, 1991, Los Angeles Times reported that: “This year, the parade committee raised $2,500 to buy a 25-foot inflatable green pig. But the generator that blows up the balloon stopped working as the parade began to move, and the air went out of the idea, committee member Ralph Noll said.”

Also for the 1991 parade, a name-the-pig contest tied with Sham Hock and Pig O’ My Heart as the winners.

After 1991, Sham Hock appeared in several St. Patrick’s Day parades. But a March 25, 1998, Los Angeles Times article reported:

For better or worse, Saturday's 10th annual St. Patrick's parade was the last year of the giant green pig.

"We're finally going to shred it up," said parade chairman and City Councilman Brian Brennan.

Although the inflatable swine has evolved into the unofficial mascot of the Main Street parade over the last decade, “The reality is, it's a racial slur,” Brennan said.

Organizers would like the annual parade and festival in honor of St. Patrick's Day — to be celebrated nationally on Tuesday — to aim for a loftier image, instead of being associated with a fat, garbage-eating farm animal.

Perhaps next year, the parade's mascot will be the stocky Connemara pony, Brennan said. Connemara is a small Irish neighborhood near Galway, where Brennan grew up. It is known for its literary community, Brennan said.

The pig's retirement promises to disappoint some tradition-minded parade-goers, who come annually to see the giant float.

"We always look forward to the green pig," said Deborah Navaro, of Thousand Oaks, who was at the procession with her husband, Jesse, and their children, Joseph, 10, Joshua, 8 and Joslyn, 7. But Brennan hopes that St. [Paddy] lovers will understand the parade committee's decision. …

After this Los Angeles Times article, there was no mention of Sham Hock in further Times coverage of Ventura St. Patrick’s Day parades. But Sham Hock lived on. According to the Ventura County Star, he marched in parades for 26 years.

In 2015, the pig was stolen from a storage facility, but found in a crate on Ventura Boulevard in Ventura.

In 2017, Sham Hock deflated again. This time, he was given a funeral procession to raise money for a replacement.

In 2018, Sham Hock 2 appeared in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here