The wafting scent of roasted pig and cheery sound of laughter and discussion emanating from the quiet neighborhood of Madison Street heralded an annual springtime tradition in Hyattsville: the Madison Street Pig Roast.
Hosted at the home of Police Chief Doug Holland, his wife Susan, and their daughter Desiree Holland, the pig roast has become a Memorial Day fixture.
It all began 30 years ago, according to Holland family lore.
Doug and Susan had moved to the area about a year prior. Susan recalls sitting on their front porch overlooking Madison Street about four or five days before Memorial Day 1982. Over conversation lubricated by Jack Daniels and spiced by Jalapeno peppers, they hit upon the idea to host a pig roast.
"We don't know why we came up with the idea, but we didn't want to travel," said Doug.
Susan said it was also a chance to get to know their neighbors, six of whom were the original owners of their homes.
The menu for that first pig roast was a slow roasted 15 pound pig, macaroni salad, beer and soda. Since then the event, and the pig, have grown in size. This year's pig weighed in at 136 pounds.
Susan said that at the time she had no designs on an annual neighborhood event.
"We didn't even think it would be more than one year," said Susan.
But they held it the next year and invited a few more friends, and then the year after that.
"It just grew and grew and grew," said Susan. "Each year we just bought a bigger pig."
The event has even attracted the attention of local and state politicians. Doug and Susan both spoke highly of Rushern Baker's appearance at last year's pig roast.
"We try to keep it apolitical, but it sometimes brings an interesting mix," said Doug.
This year's pig roast saw Maryland Delegates Anne Healey and Tawanna Gaines (D-Prince George's County) attend and give brief speeches. Both took the time to talk about the special session and measures to increase pay for disability care workers.
The message strikes a chord in this audience. Doug and Susan's daughter Desiree Holland, 41, lives with a developmental disability in the house next door. That Desiree is able to live so close by in her adult years is the result of a remarkable act of neighborly compassion. The house was sold to the Holland's at a good price per the wishes of a deceased neighbor who wished Desiree to live close to her parents.
In attendance at every event are scores of Special Olympics volunteers and athletes.
Once the speeches and invocations are done, the eating begins. Visitors could take in pork, chicken, and a cornucopia of sides and desserts to enjoy.
After 30 years of repetition, Doug says the event really doesn't need much planning.
"We all pretty much have our roles," said Doug. "We meet, maybe, once for half an hour now, we promise people that there will be beer and there will be pork, and it goes off."
The event is also a way to thank the neighborhood
"It's a great gathering of residents and friends," said Councilor Paula Perry (Ward 4). She has been attending the pig roast for at least the last 13 years. She was joined by Councilor Shani Warner (Ward 2) and Councilor Ruth Ann Frazier (Ward 5).
For Councilor Shani Warner, who has only lived on Madison Street since 2009, word of the annual pig roast served as one enticing incentive to move into their home.
"When we first put our house on contract, I remember wishing we could crash the event," said Warner. "Once we bought the house, over the next year we made sure that we had no plans for Memorial Day weekend."
Since moving in, Warner has become intimately involved in the machinations of the pig roast, getting up at the crack of dawn to start roasting the pig.
"It's my favorite time here," said Warner, describing the cacophony of birds in cathedral-like tree canopy which graces the back yards in that section of Madison Street.
"I love Hyattsville," said Warner "But in particular I feel that my corner of Hyattsville has the sense of community that I was looking for in a home."