Big pigs and barn tours


by Mary Turck, 8/28/08 • The big boar is back, despite a dearth of entries that put this year’s exhibit in doubt until the last minute. On August 14, the St. Paul Pioneer Press headlined “State Fair’s ‘big boar’ contest remains short on sizable swine.” According to the PiPress, the all-time record pig was 1,340-pound Curt in 1994. Last year, Guy Noir said he “was hired by the Minnesota State Fair to provide security for Minnesota’s Largest Pig Ricky, a 1200-pound porker in a pen in the Swine Barn.”

This year’s big pig seemed to me a little smaller than usual, and considerably better at standing and moving. Most boars don’t come anywhere near the half-ton mark, and that size is probably useful only for getting twelve days’ glory at the State Fair.

Pre-show primping is the best show in the hog barn. These pigs are clean: bathed, brushed, trimmed, and polished from top to trotters.

At the fair on Sunday, I caught the last day of 4-H animal exhibits. During the four remaining days, you can see FFA livestock (cattle, sheep, swine) and open class Goats, Beef Cattle and poultry. If you get to the fair early on Friday, you can visit the Llamas, but they will be leaving after 2 p.m. (There are three kinds of animal exhibitors at the fair—4-H, FFA, which stands for Future Farmers of America, and open class. The 4-H and FFA competitions are open to the young people who are members of these groups. Open class competition is open to anyone of any age.)

If you didn’t grow up in 4-H or FFA, the free, guided barn tour will orient you to the animal side of the fair. Just show up at the east entrance to the poultry barn—tours start about every 20 minutes and last 30 to 40 minutes. Do you know the difference between a steer and a bull? Or why a turkey’s head changes color? Even if, like me, you grew up on a farm, you may learn a few things!