Piqua, Ohio, held its annual Great Outdoor Underwear Festival in 1996. Many people walked the main street of Piqua wearing their longjohns, including this clown who was on a float in the parade Sunday, Oct. 13, 1996. Other events included the Undy 500 (a go-kart race), an undy celebrity auction (which included the auctioning of a pair of boxer shorts signed by presidential candidate Bob Dole), and the drop seat trot (a five-mile foot race). The festival celebrates Piqua's heritage of being the center of underwear manufacturing. (AP Photo/Call, Tariq Zehawi)
Photo: TARIQ ZEHAWI/AP
Photo: TARIQ ZEHAWI/AP

What this local city’s underpants have to do with blockbuster series

Potty-humor loving kids everywhere owe at least a bit of gratitude to one Dayton area town. 

In case you didn’t know, Piqua, (yeah, the one in Miami County), is the setting of Dav Pilkey’s extremely popular Captain Underpants series. 

Pilkey, a Cleveland area native, picked a fictionalized version of Piqua as the setting of his books because the real Piqua hosted the Great Outdoor Underwear FestivalNancy Spillane, children’s coordinator at Piqua Public Library, told us.

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Dav Pilkey’s “Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000” is the 11th book in his series. 
Photo: Kai Suzuki

“They are extremely popular books,” she said. “I don’t know if the fact that Piqua is in the book grabs them as much as the titles.”

Pilkey, now 51, recently told CBS “Sunday Morning” that he first dreamed up Captain Underpants in second grade. 

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His classmates love it, but his second-grade teacher threw a fit.

Pilkey said he was encouraged to write children’s books by a college professor. 

About 80 million Captain Underpants books are in print. The first was published 20 years ago. 

There is “Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000;” “Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman,”  “Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants;” and so on and so on. 

You get the point. 

The books featuring fourth-graders George Beard and Harold Hutchins are far from Shakespeare, but that’s OK. 

If it gets them to read, that’s the best part,” Spillane, a 41-year library employee, said. “We are happy to get them for them.”

The computer-animated film “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” was released in 2017. 

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There is not much of the real Piqua in the book, Spillane said, noting that that actual Great Outdoor Underwear Festival was a pretty big deal. 

“They had a parade, the booths and the food,” she recalled. 

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The Sunday, Oct. 12 1997 edition of the Dayton Daily News included the article "Briefly, Town Relives Past.

WHY WOULD PIQUA HAVE AN UNDERWEAR FESTIVAL? 

The festival celebrated  Piqua’s once  booming underwear manufacturing business.


From a 1997 Dayton Daily News article:  

"We had eight mills here in the early 1900s," said Patti Jenkins, a past festival chairwoman. "They made a lot of things other than underwear, of course. But we decided to call it the Underwear Festival because it's catchy."

The city’s last underwear factory left Piqua in 1993.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED AT THE UNDERWEAR FESTIVAL?  
Revelers  wore red longjohns and multicolored boxer shorts during the two-day, family-friendly festival.

It included the auctioning of celebrity underwear belonging to Bill Clinton, Lucille Ball, Whoopi Goldberg, George Bush and others. 

Officials modeled underwear and people battled it out in something called the "Drop Seat Trot" 5K run completed in Joe Boxers. 

There was music, bed races, lip sync battles, pie eating contests and “Undy 500” midget car races, according to Dayton Daily News articles. 

A 20-foot-tall pair of bright red longjohns situated in the heart of it all at the entrance to Piqua's historic Orr-Statler Block was not to be ignored, according to one article.

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WHY DID THE UNDERWEAR FESTIVAL END?

The festival that drew a crowd of 10,000 to 12,000 people annually started in 1988 and ended in 1998 after volunteers could not be found to take it over, according to a Dayton Daily News article printed on Jan. 24, 1998. 

"And even after 10 years, there were some merchants who complained when the street was closed, and there were those who persisted in thinking it was something wicked," Pat Best, International Underwear Ambassador and festival publicity chairwoman, said. "Many merchants helped, but not enough to keep us afloat."

This photo ran in the Dayton Daily News Saturday, Oct. 10 1992 with the caption: Dave Curtis of Piqua paints a pair of long johns on the main street in the downtown of the Miami County city in preparation for its Great Outdoor Underwear Festival today from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Festival activities include such events as the "Undy 500" race and the "Drop Seat" competition, in addition to a variety of food and entertainment.

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