But this time, state officials are taking aim.
The pig’s owner, Teako Nunn, said he thought debate over the statue had come to a close, after Hatch’s governing body last week granted an exemption allowing the figurine to serve as an off-premises billboard for his downtown cafe, Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ & Espresso.
On Tuesday, however, Nunn and his wife, Josie, received two letters from the state Department of Transportation indicating the pig and an extra-large hot dog-shaped sign – also owned by the Nunns – are in violation of state law.
Apparently the signs fall under the state’s jurisdiction because they’re located off N.M. Hwy. 26, which runs through Hatch.
Specifically, one letter noted that advertising can’t be attached or placed on “mobile vehicles or trailers.” The pig, which sports a “Sparky’s” banner, sits on a trailer.
The other letter indicates that the hot dog sign – stationed at another of the Nunns’ businesses, Franciscan RV – doesn’t have a permit.
Nunn said he’s skeptical about whether his signs actually are in violation of state law, and his attorney is looking into the matter. A discrepancy in the letter about the pig, he said, is that it lists the statue’s former location as the site of the advertising. The pig has since been relocated.
The Nunns have drawn attention in recent weeks because of their growing collection of oversized Americana statues.
Teako Nunn, who remains upbeat, said he feels he’s being singled out unfairly. Meanwhile, wanting to make a statement, he plans to add another figurine to his collection.
“I got on the Internet yesterday and thought: ‘What would be appropriate for the experience we’re having?” he said. “If I’m going to be in the frying pan, I might as well make it fun, so I bought a seven-and-a-half-foot-tall Statue of Liberty.”
Continued Nunn: “That’s kind of appropriate for private enterprise and land of the free.”
The letter regarding the pig indicates the statue and trailer should be removed within 30 days, or else the transportation department will remove it. The hot dog sign also is “subject to removal,” according to the second letter.
Transportation officials couldn’t be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon.
Hatch Mayor Judd Nordyke said he was aware of the letter from state officials. He said the situation is “getting a little bit ridiculous.”
“Someone obviously complained enough times that the squeaky wheel is getting the grease,” he said. The Nunns “already have been through a lot of grief, and this is uncalled for. I really don’t understand it.”
By Diana M. Alba Sun-News reporter