Hogs get their chance to shine at Youth Fair


Contestants parade their pigs around the arena during the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show at the fairgrounds on Friday in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 at 9:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 at 9:36 p.m.

While spectators waited for the first hogs to be released into the show ring Friday at the Alachua County Fairgrounds, 10-year-old Will Eubanks and 12-year-old Savannah Banner sat atop the pen containing Will's pig, Number 82.

Will was a "teensy, weensy bit" nervous about showing his hog, which he'd raised since October. Savannah was both nervous and kind of excited.

Will's hog had squealed when he gave him a bath, cleaning off dried mud to reveal the light-pink body beneath, before bringing him to the Alachua County Youth Fair and Livestock Show. But now, drinking water from a nozzle as the grunting of nearby hogs echoed through the tent, Number 82 was calm.

The youth fair, which features children ages 8 through 18 who participate in 4-H or Future Farmers of America programs and have raised pigs, goats, cattle or other animals for the event, was in full swing Friday and lasts through Tuesday. Children who sell their livestock at the fair often use the money they earn to reinvest in next year's animal-raising project or they put it into a college fund.

On Friday at the pig show, kids brushed their hogs' hair, checked their supplies and applied ‘show sheen' to make their pigs shine.

Will had a while to wait before making his debut at this year's youth fair, but Savannah took out her pig, which she raised as a fundraiser for the Micanopy Friendship 4-H club, in the first round.

Sporting a white, long-sleeved shirt emblazoned with the four-leaf-clover symbol of her club and a thin green bow around her collar, Savannah led her pink-and-gray pig into the ring inside the fairgrounds' exhibition hall along with several competitors.

A couple hogs ran across the ring at a quick gait and others grunted as they explored, ambling past ringmen armed with red plastic boards in case they had to separate a pair of warring hogs.

Savannah used a baton as she directed hers, occasionally guiding the pig away if it brushed noses for too long with another hog. The ring slowly emptied as the judge sent hogs that weren't quite top-tier back to their pens, leaving Savannah and a few other competitors in the ring with their swine.

Behind the bleachers filled with people watching the pig show Friday, chickens pecked at food in plastic cups duct-taped to the sides of their cages while judges walked the aisles.

Across from the poultry lay the quietest batch of animals at the fair — the rabbits. They twitched their noses as a few people milled around their cages, while a particularly curious black-and-white rabbit braced his paws against his cage and looked up through the grated ceiling.

Back in the ring, a new batch of participants showed off their hogs while Savannah watched. She had won second-place in her round, an award based on the quality of the pig.

Today, Savannah and the other participants will show their hogs again, but this time they'll be judged on their showmanship. Friday night's second-place finish will help boost her pig's ratings at Tuesday's auction, and the proceeds will benefit the Micanopy Friendship 4-H, said Matt Benge, youth development agent for Alachua County 4-H.

It felt really good to win an award, Savannah said, because she wasn't expecting to since it was her first time showing a pig at the fair.

"It's not as intimidating when you're actually in the ring," she said. "Once you get into it, it's kind of fun, and you don't really notice it anymore."

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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