By Alisha McDarris
February 28, 2013
St. Lucie County — Children squealed, bounced up and down and waved their arms in excitement, parents smiled and laughed from the bleachers as pigs raced around an oval track lined with wood shavings for an iced oatmeal cookie at the finish line.
The St. Lucie County fair pig races are a family favorite every year, and with comic emcees and kids kissing swine, it’s not hard to see why.
For years the Show-Me swine races have entertained fair goers, provoking hearty chuckles at trained Yorkshires and Potbellies with racing names like Shakin’ Bacon, Cristina Hoguilera, and Arnold Schwarzenpigger as they scurry in a circle and lean into the curves, hoping to be the first to reach the trough at the finish.
Race master Nathan Tidwell helps train the pigs, which he says takes only a week or two with a smart pig.
“A pig is smarter than a dog,” Tidwell said.
The trick to finding those smart pigs, he explained, is selecting pigs with ears that stand erect as opposed to those that fold over.
Tidwell’s “world-famous racing pigs” garner much excitement from children, especially those chosen as “pig rooters” for a numbered pig. If their pig wins, they are awarded a stuffed pink piglet and a bag of mini doughnuts from the stand nearby.
But “You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it,” said Tidwell.
With the help of the pig corralers, Riblet and Hambone, Tidwell also called for kids to nominate their parents to be rooters for the potbelly race, duties they performed good-naturedly.
Pam Combs of Port St. Lucie and her 10-year-old daughter Olivia, who is in 4-H, have enjoyed this fair event many times over the years.
“I think it’s a wonderful family thing,” Combs said.