COLUMBIA—The Seabiscuits and Secretariats of the world might get the glory, but pigs can tear up a horseshoe-shaped track with just as much fervor and valor.
The 60th annual Boone County Fair features many odd events, but chief among them has to be the pig races. With little squiggly wigglies sporting names such as Elvis Pigsley and Snoop Hoggy Hogg, a fair amount of cute combines with the inherent absurdity to create a fun and family-friendly atmosphere.
Race announcer “Porkbarrelannie” and pig wrangler and handler “The Pig Whisperer” Brother Elroy provide excitement and irreverence to the middle American event.
“The crowd is always the best part,” Brother Elroy said. “They keep things exciting and interesting for me.”
Porkbarrelannie agrees. “(The crowd) is a whole lot of fun. A lot of them haven’t seen pig races before, and they always react enthusiastically.”
The course is a daunting 576 lengths of a pig snout, and the prize — a scrumptious Oreo cookie hidden in pig feed — provides tantalizing motivation.
They’re quick learners, too. “They’re smarter than dogs,” Brother Elroy said. “They were just babies at the beginning of the summer, but they already know so much. We barely had to teach them to race.”
But Porkbarrelannie cautioned that not all of them are smart. “You have no idea how long it took to teach Rush Limhog to turn left.”
Tyler Vincent, 10, of Columbia was impressed.
“It was exciting because the announcer was hilarious, and the pigs were so much faster than I thought they would be,” he said. “I didn’t think they would run, I just thought they would jog. And that Elvis Pigsley was fast. I bet he wins every time.”
A word of caution though from Porkbarrelannie: “You can yell at the pigs, you can cheer the pigs on, just don’t stand too close because (pig manure) is hard to get off,” Porkbarrelannie said.
Wednesday night’s winners — Sylvester Stalloin, Britney Squeals and the aforementioned Elvis Pigsley — will continue to race for their beloved Oreo at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday, 5, 7, 9 and 11 p.m. Friday and 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 p.m. Saturday.