Want a na­tional day?

A web­site in North Dakota sells procla­ma­tions for up to $4,000

Cape Breton Post - - ADVICE / LIFESTYLES / IN MEMORIAM - BY CANDICE CHOI NEW YORK

To most Amer­i­cans, July 4 is In­de­pen­dence Day. But on Marlo An­der­son’s cal­en­dar, it’s also Cae­sar Salad Day and Bar­be­cued Spareribs Day.

An­der­son is the mas­ter­mind of the Na­tional Day Cal­en­dar, an online com­pen­dium of pseudo-hol­i­days that has be­come a re­source for TV and ra­dio sta­tions look­ing to add a lit­tle lev­ity to their broad­casts, among oth­ers.

The 52-year-old co-owner of a VHS dig­i­tiz­ing com­pany in North Dakota started the cal­en­dar in 2013 and soon re­al­ized the site could also be a way for peo­ple to de­clare their own spe­cial days. So last year, he started charg­ing $1,500 to $4,000 for “na­tional day” procla­ma­tions.

“Peo­ple cer­tainly don’t need to use us. It’s just we re­ally give it a jump­start,” he said.

Mar­ket­ing ex­perts give An­der­son credit for seiz­ing on the de­sire by com­pa­nies and groups for another way to pro­mote them­selves, though they ques­tion the ef­fec­tive­ness some of the re­sult­ing cam­paigns. It’s not the only rea­son for cel­e­bra­tion, but food seems to be a com­mon sub­ject for spe­cial days.

Al­ready, the Na­tional Day Cal­en­dar says it has given its bless­ing to more than 30 made-up hol­i­days. A crou­ton maker paid for Na­tional Crou­ton Day (May 13), a seafood res­tau­rant sub­mit­ted Na­tional Fried Clam Day ( July 3) and a craft beer maker came up with Na­tional Re­fresh­ment Day ( fourth Thurs­day in July).

An­der­son’s ven­ture, which he says brings in roughly $50,000 a year, un­der­scores the free-for-all na­ture of such days.

In 1870, Congress es­tab­lished the first four fed­eral hol­i­days with New Year’s Day, In­de­pen­dence Day, Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas. Since then, only six more an­nual fed­eral hol­i­days have been added, with the most re­cent be­ing Martin Luther King Jr. day in 1983. But even the au­thor­ity of those hol­i­days is lim­ited; although they’re broadly ob­served, they’re tech­ni­cally only legally ap­pli­ca­ble to fed­eral em­ploy­ees.

A few dozen other dates are also rec­og­nized in the U.S. code, in­clud­ing Mother’s Day, Na­tional School Lunch Week and Amer­i­can Heart Month. May­ors, pres­i­dents and other law­mak­ers can de­clare days hon­our­ing in­di­vid­u­als and causes too, although those usu­ally aren’t widely ob­served.

Be­yond that, there’s no sin­gle au­thor­ity for declar­ing the le­git­i­macy of spe­cial days, which can be­come part of cul­ture in myr­iad ways, in­clud­ing mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, ad­vo­cacy ef­forts and folk­lore.

The of­ten murky ori­gins present an op­por­tu­nity for the Na­tional Day Cal­en­dar, which has emerged to be­stow an air of au­thor­ity on spe­cial days. For a price, the site mails of­fi­cial-look­ing procla­ma­tions that An­der­son prints out and frames at Zoovio, his VHS dig­i­tiz­ing busi­ness.

Bos­ton Mar­ket’s chief brand of­fi­cer, Sara Bit­torf, said the idea for Na­tional Ro­tis­serie Chicken Day ( June 2) came from the chain’s ad agency, but noted the day was one of few ap­proved by the Na­tional Day Cal­en­dar’s se­lec­tion com­mit­tee.

Since the Na­tional Day Cal­en­dar doesn’t have its own staff, that se­lec­tion com­mit­tee is made up of four Zoovio em­ploy­ees.

Amy LaVallie, a com­mit­tee mem­ber, said the gen­eral rule is to pick days with broad ap­peal. It’s why “Na­tional Sean Con­nery Day” was re­jected, she said, but Bos­ton Mar­ket’s sub­mis­sion passed muster.

“Na­tional Ro­tis­serie Chicken Day, okay? Peo­ple like chicken. Sim­ple as that,” LaVallie said.

Still, some ques­tion the va­lid­ity of An­der­son’s cal­en­dar dec­la­ra­tions.

“It seems like hokum to me, but more power to him,” said Robert Pas­sikoff, pres­i­dent of Key Brands, a con­sult­ing firm. “Ask him if they have a P.T. Bar­num day, and see if they’re cel­e­brat­ing a sucker born ev­ery minute.”

While spe­cial days give com­pa­nies another way to pro­mote a prod­uct, Pas­sikoff said their ef­fec­tive­ness would de­pend largely on whether there’s a nat­u­ral in­ter­est in the cat­e­gory. He said Na­tional Donut Day (the first Fri­day in June) gets a lot of at­ten­tion be­cause the pas­tries are pop­u­lar and the day has in­ter­est­ing ori­gins; the Sal­va­tion Army says it be­gan dur­ing World War I when its work­ers gave sol­diers cof­fee and dough­nuts in the trenches.

As for a day cel­e­brat­ing ro­tis­serie chicken, Pas­sikoff ques­tioned whether any­one would re­ally care.

While the Na­tional Day Cal­en­dar is a quick way for com­pa­nies to get recog­ni­tion for a spe­cial date, it isn’t the only keeper of no­table days.

In 1957, broth­ers Wil­liam and Har­ri­son Chase started Chase’s Cal­en­dar of Events as a ref­er­ence for the media. The first edi­tion was 32 pages, but the book has since mush­roomed to 752 pages and in­cludes fed­eral hol­i­days and events like mu­si­cal fes­ti­vals, as well as days cel­e­brat­ing things like squir­rels, pooper scoop­ers and s’mores.

AP PHOTO/WILL KIN­CAID

In this June 16, 2015 photo, Zoovio co-owner Marlo An­der­son, eats some home­made fudge as he poses for photos on Na­tional Fudge Day at his Man­dan, N.D. busi­ness.

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