On the 21st of November, over 150 people from surrounding communities all gathered at the Central High School auditorium to witness the making of a small town celebrity.
John Wigger is a maintenance man at Central High. A hard working man that shows up to do his job, but then goes home to something a more interesting. Mr. Wigger is the co-owner of Hawthorne Forge, a forgery located in Deloge. After graduating from North County, John Wigger went into Mineral Area College in order to get a degree in electrical maintenance. A year later he is the co-owner of the small town forge.
With 4 years of smithing experience under his belt, John Wigger was contacted by one of the producers of a popular TV show called “Forged in Fire” after posting one of his creations to social media. This History Channel show is a contest that can be compared to “MasterChef”, if you replace the chefs and food with blacksmiths and weapons. Four blacksmiths are put to the test as they have to create a weapon chosen by the judges in a short amount of time and sometimes challenging environments.
Before the communal viewing of the episode in the Central auditorium, I had an interview with Mr. Wigger backstage as he was getting ready to go out from behind the curtains to talk to the audience.
Q:”How did you get on the TV show?
A:”Well actually I’ve been posting pictures online for awhile on my instagram and the producers of “Forged in Fire” on my Instagram the knives and stuff so they actually asked to put in an application for the show. So I put in an application for the show and it kinda just went on and on. They kinda wanted me to do a video of me forging and some other stuff. Then it just happened and they asked me to be on the show”.
Q:”So you’ve been smithing for sometime then”?
A:”I’ve been blacksmithing for about 4 years and I’ve been making knives for about 2. Me and my Partner Joe Nipper at Hawthorne Forge we kinda just got into knives recently”.
Q:”So what made you want to get into smithing and creating weapons”?
A:”I’ve always worked with my hands and I just recently acquired an anvil and then after that I got a forge and then like I said my business partner, Joe Nipper, he started teaching me about forging and then we started making just knick knack stuff and then we got into knives and new we’re here where I am now”.
Q:”Have you ever thought about leaving behind Central High School and just going full on into the smithing business or are you content where you’re at”?
A:”I would love eventually to be a full time blacksmith but just benefits and stuff, it’s kinda hard to do that. It would be a dream to do that but I love central and I love my job so I’m kinda happy where I’m at”.
Throughout the episode, John Wigger would speak on stage during commercial breaks to elaborate on what he was feeling and thinking when we was on the show. He spoke about the intense heat he had to work through in the first challenge, and how he shaved and anvil onto his chest and “It will kill” on his back which is a widely known quote from the show.
As the last challenge was taking place, you could feel the anticipation in the room. Mr. Wigger had made it to the finals where he was tasked with creating a Bardiche, a medieval era war axe, in 5 days at his home forge in Missouri. He returned to the show where his axe underwent multiple tests. As John Wigger and his computer stood before the judges on the screen, the audience became deathly quiet, awaiting to see what happens next.
When the judges said that John has won “Forged in Fire”, the auditorium roared with cheering and applause. A small town maintenance man and blacksmith had won $10,000 on a national TV show.
In his victory speech, John spoke about how he connected with one of the other contestants, Tim Troyer, who works with young men in Uganda on missionary trips to talk to them about Jesus and also teach them how to create tools for their community. John expressed that he plans to join the project and that he has started a fundraiser to reach $50,000 so that he may ship his smithing equipment to Uganda.
With John ending his speech in a prayer, the night was over. But John Wigger, Park Hills and surrounding communities won’t forget this event anytime soon.