Inside This Issue - Opinion
Candidates vie to kiss a pig
March 25th, 2013
by David Pinto, Editor
On March 9, some 1,500 people attended the American Diabetes Association’s 11th annual Kiss a Pig Gala at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, Ark.
Convened to raise money for the fight against diabetes, the gala brought out many of the prominent citizens of northwest Arkansas — not incidentally, the home of Walmart — both to support the ADA’s efforts and to help determine who would end the evening by kissing a pig.
Eleven honorees vied for that somewhat dubious honor, which would be bestowed on the two individuals who succeeded in raising the most money to fight diabetes. Those honored included a senior Walmart vice president along with a vice president from that retailer’s Sam’s Club unit, which appeared to give America’s largest retailer a leg up on the competition. The other honorees included several locally based business executives, some of whom work for supplier companies that serve Walmart, Sam’s or both.
Then there was Chuck Fehlig. Once a senior merchant at Walmart, Fehlig is now a principal in Blue Ocean Innovative Solutions, a highly regarded Bentonville-based consulting company.
Though Walmart was the main attraction for many who attended the Kiss a Pig Gala, it was Fehlig who, more than any other honoree, brought out the crowd. Many attendees retained fond memories of the former Walmart divisional merchandise manager, where he was known and respected for his knowledge, integrity and commitment to work with suppliers. Other attendees have come to know him in his newer career as an owner, along with Bob Dufour and Bruce Painter, of Blue Ocean, a consulting company that has, in a relatively short time, made a name for itself in the packaged goods and retail consulting businesses.
But back to the Kiss a Pig event. As background, the pig is a symbolic animal for diabetes sufferers. Some 90 years ago scientists discovered that the pig’s pancreas could be used to make insulin, a discovery that would lead to many innovations in the treatment of diabetes. So it was that many leading citizens in northwest Arkansas turned out to watch a group of adults compete for the chance to kiss a pig.
The competition for the honor of kissing a pig was intense. Many of the leading companies in the neighborhood donated items for a silent auction. Others contributed items for a live auction. All items were donated on behalf of one of the honorees. In all, more than 125 companies supplied objects or events to be bid on.
The evening was punctuated by a handful of speeches, a 45-minute turn by the rock group REO Speedwagon and a presentation by the evening’s honorary chair, Charles Redfield, chief merchandising officer at Sam’s Club. And, of course, there was the requisite dinner, dancing — and noise.
But the evening’s focus was squarely on the kiss-a-pig competition. And as the evening wound down expectation levels rose dramatically. Would Walmart command the leverage to carry the evening? Would Chuck Fehlig’s popularity win the day? Would another of the honorees — the candidate from Arvest Bank or Clorox Co., a second banker, a financial advisor or perhaps one of two local physicians in the competition — walk off with the prize?
In the end, Walmart’s leverage couldn’t quite carry the day. Rather, the opportunity to kiss a pig went to the individual whose popularity and personal appeal dwarfed those of the other honorees — a candidate whose friends and admirers had traveled to Rogers from both coasts just to express their affection for him, their respect for his business acumen and their appreciation for the ethical way in which he has always conducted himself and his business.
So it was that, at evening’s end, Chuck Fehlig kissed the pig.