Hogs ruled on Tuesday at the Tuscarawas County Fair

Hogs ruled on Tuesday at the Tuscarawas County Fair
Teri Stein

Annabelle Gump, 10 of Port Washington, a member of the Ridge Valley Winners 4-H club, with her pig, Pretty Girl.


Hogs took control of the ring all day long on Tuesday at the fair for the market hog show. Hog is the most popular animal project, not just in Tuscarawas County, but also the entire state of Ohio, and the show went on for most of the day.

“This one’s a big one; this one takes forever,” Kiersten Heckel of the Tuscarawas County OSU Extension said. “To stay in compliance with what the state is requiring, we can only have 10 exhibitors in the show ring at a time. We did have to add a few additional classes, so the show is going to run a little bit longer than it normally does.”

At the fair 265 hogs got checked in, which is down a little bit but not bad considering the circumstances. Heckel said, “There weren’t too many that were underweight. I think we only had a couple that had to go home because they couldn’t make weight. We didn’t have any that were overweight.”

A few participants did drop the project this year with the uncertainty.

“Maybe financially it was a burden or they were nervous about how the fair was going to go,” Heckel said. “We don’t want people to be here if they’re uncomfortable.”

Heckel had a few thoughts on why the hog project is so popular. “Pigs have such a big personality,” she said. “I’ve always been partial to hogs anyway. I grew up on a hog farm and grew up showing hogs.”

A hog project is not a long-term commitment like a steer, which lasts one year, and hogs are less expensive. Hog projects last several months, providing more involvement for the participants than a chicken project that is only six weeks.

The hog project is the same each year, but the participants move up in age divisions as they grow older. “The little ones that are just starting out at 8 or 9 years old, we test their knowledge too, but there’s a big difference; we’re obviously going to expect an 18-year-old to know far more than an 8-year-old,” Heckel said.

During judging, the judges look at the exhibitor’s project record books and test their knowledge with skill-a-thons and the interview judging that usually takes place in July.

A division is made up of four classes, and then there is a division champion selected, so it takes some time to hold the event. There was a total of 32 divisions at the Tuesday show. The divisions start with the lightest hogs to the heaviest. At the end of the event, the top-10 hogs overall are selected including grand champion and reserve champion.

There are varying reasons why participants want to take a hog project. Madison Degen, 15 of New Philadelphia, a member of the Town & Country 4-H club, decided to take a pig project this year after one of her sisters took the project last year.

Degen spent her summer taking her hog, Trixie, for walks during the day. “It’s how to train them to keep their heads up,” she said. Hogs can walk up to 2 miles, but Trixie’s walks weren’t that long.

Also different this year, there were no in-person interviews. Instead, participants participated in a skill-a-thon online, answering questions about their project.

Degen’s father, Sam, who also showed hogs at the fair when he was in 4-H, has been able to advise his daughters including Cammi and Alexis with their projects. “Hogs are easy to train, but when they get to the fair, they can be totally different,” he said.

Pigs are fun to have, and Degen enjoyed taking the project. For her first try, her pig took eighth place in a class of 13. “I’m proud of her,” Sam Degen said.

Madison Degen also took two other projects this year: one with her Dutch rabbit and the other was quick breads. She won first in the county this year in the quick breads project.

No one knows what to expect at the auctions this year with only the grand and reserve champion winner showing their animals to bidders. The other participants will enter the ring without their animals. “It will be different,” Sam Degen said.

Annabelle Gump, 10 of Port Washington, a member of the Ridge Valley Winners 4-H club, took a pig project because she likes the animals and likes learning how to budget. Those taking the project must keep track of their expenses like feed and equipment.

“They can eat twice a day or all day long,” Gump said, adding she makes sure her pig, Pretty Girl, has food and water.

When it comes to training her pig, a cane and marshmallows are very helpful. The pig’s behavior is more important for the showmanship competition. For the market hog show, the exhibitors just have to keep their eye on the judge.

This is Gump’s second year of taking a hog project. She added a chicken project this year and cake decorating.

The exhibitors seem pleased with the fair so fair. Eva Carr, 12 of Newcomerstown, a member of the Rosebuds & Ramblers 4-H club, appreciates having the junior fair. “It’s going OK, just different with less people.”

"It’s going good," said Andrew Swain, 17 of Dennison, a member of the Milk Makers 4-H club. "I like it, not many people here. I don’t like to ride the rides, so I don’t miss that."

The grand champion market hog was awarded to Wyatt Gordon of the 4-H Jr Achievers, and reserve champion market hog honors went to Emma Leggett of the Boots and Chutes 4-H club. Third through 10th place overall was awarded in the following order: Kaitlin Yoder, Brady Evans, Alyssa Sproul, Tessa Harrold, Lance Yoder, Jacqui Blose, Abigail Sprowl and Kayne Ellwood.

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