Ah, fair season…it’s a time for many things: stuffing your face with the likes of funnel cakes, elephant ears, fried Oreos, then topping it all off with a Hershey’s chocolate milkshake; a prime opportunity to turn those brand new white Nike’s you got for the start of school into a muddy, stained pair of hand-me-down look-a-likes; not only that, but it’s a great way to work those fair food calories off by walking through exhibits, eluding punk kids that don’t have the words, “excuse me,” in their vocabulary, and…catching pigs?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, on Thursday, the West Lampeter Fair put on an event called The Youth Pig Catching Contest. As the name may suggest, it is a competition where, for a whopping $15 cash-prize, kids – males and females under the age of 15 – try and catch pigs of all different sizes. But, there’s a catch – not just the pig.
Before the lines of children await the countdown to run after the poor, innocent four-legged farm animals, they have to dip their arms into a bucket of grease to make the contest even more challenging.
Now, you might be thinking, “Are you serious? This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” Well, join the club. Before I attended this unorthodox event, I was thinking the same thing. Sure, I was a fan of the fair, but being a guy who moved here from New Jersey with two parents that were born and raised in a place called Brooklyn, New York, I wasn’t quite fond of the whole pig-catching thing. That was until those squealing, flailing, jerking pigs were right in front of me, escaping the slippery grips of the manic children.
As I squeezed through the crowd of people that were either watching their sons and daughters participate or just bathing in the swine’s torment to get their fill of entertainment for the day, I realized just what all this chatter was about.
“It’s very popular,” said Donna Good, a spokesperson and the recording secretary of the fair. Although being stuck in the office for most of her time, she likes to get her dose of pig-chasing in when she can. “[The kids] have an awesome time chasing after the pig.”
That they do. And for that reason, it’s a joy for everyone else – including me. When my eyes first caught a glimpse of the desperate, running-for-its-life pig, I couldn’t help myself feeling for the poor thing and wanting to jump the fence and rescue it from the zombie-like wave of children. As the pig juked one way, the crowd followed like a swarm of bees.
When one of the pigs was caught, it was on to the next one. I swear, as I watched and got more and more immersed in the competition, I cheered more and more for the pig – silently of course, for the crowd of spectators that surrounded me were cheering for the opposite thing I was: for my poor, not-so-little friend to be caught. Whether it was by jumping on top of the pig, head-locking it or grabbing one of its legs and holding on for dear life, the kids did everything they could to make their fans happy.
Not only were the fans enlivened every time a pig’s chase came to a “squealing” halt, but the victor of each round lit up with pure happiness and excitement.
“The kids love it,” Good said, and that definitely was shown through the elated look on the short-breathed, exhausted children while they lugged their prize back to its pen.
At that exact moment, I had to put my feelings for the pig aside and let myself be open and willing to allow one of the biggest simple pleasures of the fair to sink in.
After all, that’s what it all comes down to. No matter how many calories a food may be, no matter how dirty a place smells or feels, no matter how dumb something may seem as an outsider looking in, if it makes people happy and puts smiles on the faces of many, it’s something great. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll pull you in as well and put a smile on your own face – just like it did for me at The Youth Pig Catching Contest at the West Lampeter Fair.