A test of character

Swine show lets youth show grace under pressure Grant County Fair

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4-H competitors maneuver their animals around the ring during fitting and showing competition at the Grant County Fair Thursday.

MOSES LAKE — Turns out most pigs don’t like hot weather any more than most humans.

“They get cranky, they don’t want to show, they just want to lie down,” said Shanna Golladay, a volunteer for swine fitting and showing competition at the Grant County Fair Thursday. Golladay is a 4-H leader and former advisor for Warden High School FFA.

Fair week weather is featuring temperatures in excess of 95 degrees, and animals and exhibitors had endured two to three days of it by Thursday. Fitting and showing competition for steers and swine is held in the Ardell Pavilion, a nice big insulated building, but lacking air conditioning. Even the many fans dotted around the space didn’t always help – it got pretty uncomfortable in there Wednesday afternoon, Golladay said.

“Everybody’s patience wears thin when the temperature goes up,” said Mike Wallace, advisor for Quincy High School FFA. That includes the animals.

A cranky pig started a fight with another pig during intermediate competition Thursday morning. There’s a protocol when that happens – pigs get combative in the show ring – but at the crucial moment the pig bouncers were elsewhere, breaking up a fight in a different ring. Eventually the combatants were separated, the aggressor somewhat bloodied. It was dismissed, just like an unruly patron in a bar.

The steers didn’t start a fight, but some of them weren’t any more cooperative. They didn’t want to stand in line, and their owners were forced to lead them around in circles to get them to stand still. The animals, Wallace said, didn’t really want to be poked and prodded and led around the ring, especially when it’s hot. “It’s harder for them to move” when it’s hot, and they get tired faster, said Treyron Booth, a Royal City exhibitor.

But Treyron (his nickname is Moose) said pigs are more likely to behave if the exhibitor spends time training them before the fair. “If you work with them more, they’ll get better,” Moose said.

The barns were bustling Thursday morning, kids waiting for their turn in the show ring, trying to keep their animals cool on a day when temperatures were supposed to hit 99 degrees. Hunter Booth’s pig likes the wash stand, where animals get spruced up before entering the ring. (Hunter is from Royal City.) Hunter just led his pig to the stand and turned on the water, he said.

Kids use spray bottles, and Titan Smith of Ephrata said his group has fans set up and running next to the pen. They skip the bottles and use a bigger rig usually used for chemicals like fertilizer, he said.

Keeping the animals cool is the first step on a hot day, but there are other techniques that help with show ring success. Swine exhibitors use a cane or a stick to keep their pigs under control, tapping them to guide them in the right direction. Pigs don’t like that, Hunter said, so an exhibitor who can keep that to a minimum will be less likely to annoy the animal.

But Thursday wasn’t Hunter’s day. His pig was “terrible,” he said. “He went to the fence too much.”

The annual stock sale was this morning.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com

Brody Wallace attempts to move his steer during fitting and showing competition Thursday at the Grant County Fair.

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