Hog Heaven

A pig peeks out from the chute enclosure as it gets near the scales during the weigh-in for the Swine Show at the Southeastern Youth Fair at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion on Thursday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
The Southeastern Youth Fair swine weigh-in on Thursday morning felt eerily like American Idol.

Hundreds of pigs waited nervously for their chance at judgment. The squeals from the swine as they made their way through the chutes pierced the air like so many off-key singers. All that was missing was Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest.

All were looking for that golden ticket. The yellow, carbon copy slip of paper was their ticket to the big time, at least for the students showing the swine in the show. For the pigs themselves, the trip would be one way.

The Southeastern Youth Fair’s 46th Annual Swine Show features 4-H and FFA members presenting their pigs which were raised for the meat market.

There were 195 swine at the weigh-in, but not all made the cut. Each hog had to weigh at least 230 pounds.

Brynleigh Durham’s project hog “Jessie” weighed in at 262 pounds on Thursday morning.

While easily making weight, Brynleigh’s mom, Amanda Durham, stressed over the animal’s weight up until the last moment.

“Every single day,” Amanda Durham said. “I worried because this is our first year… We panicked. I panicked the whole time. I panicked this morning. I worried the whole time.”

Just to be safe, Brynleigh stuffed Jessie with a box of Dunkin’ donuts glazed Munchkins early Thursday morning.  She admitted to eating a few herself.

“She likes to eat,” the 11-year-old said of Jessie.

Brynleigh, a member of the Caprine 4-H club, started her swine project on Halloween when Jessie arrived from Noble, Indiana.

As a former participant in the fair’s goat shows, Brynleigh was new to the swine world and did a lot of learning by doing.

When asked what the hardest part of the project was, Brynleigh was quick to spout off her answer.

“Breaking her,” Brynleigh said. “She doesn’t listen to the whip.”

Come Friday, Brynleigh will navigate Jessie through a show ring full of a dozen other exhibitors and their pigs.

“She’s gotten a lot better,” Brynleigh assured.

Jessie and Brynleigh, as well as the hundreds of other exhibitor-pig duos, will head to the show ring on Friday morning at 9 a.m. for showmanship and then again at 6 p.m. for the show.

Hogs will be auctioned off on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Bids can be placed in person or online at seyfair.com

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