AGH At The New York, Washington County Fair
In 2018, our 13 year old son showed our American Guinea Hogs for the first time at our county fair. The New York Washington County Fair is one of the largest agricultural fairs in New York State. In fact, it has more cows on the grounds at any one time than even the New York State Fair does!!! Over 125,000 people visit the fair each year.
While we have shown chickens and rabbits at the fair for years, this was our first foray into showing pigs. We took four pigs; a fall gilt born in July of 2017, two registered gilts born in April of 2018, and a feeder pig that was born May 2018. Traditionally, there haven’t been many pigs shown at our fair (in 2017, I believe there were six). And while our fair does have open (adult) classes for most animal entries, in 2018 they only had youth classes for swine.
Making the decision to step up to showing swine was not an easy one.
First, because it was youth only, we had to get our son to agree. His first love is not pigs; it is chickens. Initially my son was a bit hesitant to show the pigs. As we decorated the pens, washed pigs, and then moved them to the fair, he warmed to the idea. But, having never shown pigs before and really having no idea what we were doing, he was still hesitant. But, as soon as he was done with showmanship, he made a beeline to me and said, “Dad, that was SO much fun. We need to bring even more pigs next year!!!”
Second, we weren’t sure whether or not landrace breeds would be allowed. Many fairs don’t allow them to be shown and I have heard that even where they are allowed, the judges and other exhibitors aren’t friendly towards them. But, as we investigated, carefully reading the rules and consulting with the barn superintendent we found that we could show them. Not only that, but fellow exhibitors in the barn were friendly and VERY helpful to us, helping us keep an eye on the pigs when we were at other commitments, lending my son a pig stick to show with, and giving us tips and tricks as newbies. Not only that, but the judge also was very pro-heritage breed, interested in learning about American Guinea Hogs and publicly affirming to those watching that there is a place for all of the breeds within “pigdom”.
Finally, we were concerned about the level of cost and commitment. The cost of vet bills, booth decorations, and other supplies mounted quickly. Having to be at the fair most of the day and until close every night certainly wore on us. But, the opportunity to educate people about the breed, to hear people “ooooh” and “awwwww” over the cute “baby pigs” was certainly worth it. And the look on our son’s face when we assembled the awards he had earned was very satisfying.
Overall, we greatly enjoyed our first experience at the fair. 2018 saw the most swine ever exhibited at the fair (21) and it was a privilege to be a part of that. And because the experience was so great, we returned in 2019.
In 2019 they added an open show and so I was able to exhibit pigs as well. My son and I both took a registered gilt and a feeder pig, all born in May of 2019. Big improvements were made to the swine barn and changes were also made to the manner in which pigs are exhibited which really led to an even better overall experience. The American Guinea hogs certainly win the hearts of fair goers even though they don’t show as well against some of the larger pigs. Even still, my son’s feeder pig was Grand Champion at the youth show, and Reserve Grand Champion at the open show as well as Best Dressed Pig as a “Hog Dog” in the Best Dressed Pig contest. And my feeder pig was Grand Champion at the open show. But even more important than the awards were the memories we made exhibiting pigs together. Those moments are ones I will cherish forever.