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Will it be swine time at the Effingham County Fair again?
Ayden Wilharm
Ayden Wilharm shows his 255-pound hog during the Oct. 20 Effingham County Fair Swine Show. One of two entries, he won the showmanship competition. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — Students aren’t exactly going hog wild about the Effingham County Fair Swine Show. 

The Oct. 20 event featured only two pigs, which is two more than were shown in 2019. The 2020 version was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effingham County Fair Livestock Committee Chairman Gerald Kessler said the fair’s swine show featured as many as 45 hogs in the past.

“It goes in cycles,” said Marvin Kersey, a Young Farmer and Work-Based Learning advisor in the Effingham County School District. “Some years it will be up and some years it will be down. You never know until the time comes.”

 Count Kersey among local fair and agriculture officials who believe that swine show participation is likely to pick up soon. 

“We’ve got several more (students) coming along,” Kersey said. “At the February show in Perry, we will have about nine or 10.”

Kersey said some students have an interest in showing pigs but it isn’t shared or supported by their parents.

“It does take a lot of time and responsibility on the kid’s part to look after (a hog),” Kersey said.

 Kersey, however, said raising hog is no more difficult than other animals shown at the fair. The Oct. 19 goat show featured 27 students and more than three dozen goats.

“The time factor is almost the same,” Kersey said. “It just goes back to what the kid is more comfortable with.”

Goats are easier to handle in the ring, Kersey explained. The ones shown in this year’s show ranged from 40-110 pounds.

The hogs shown by Ayden Wilharm and Chandler Roberts weighed 255 and 258 pounds, respectively.

“That’s all muscle, too,” Kersey said. 

The fair also featured cattle (18) and lamb (4) shows. Two rabbits were shown by Brianna Floyd.

“Even the lambs are more difficult to show than the goats sometimes because they carry more muscle mass in general than goats do,” Kersey said. “Like I said, it all depends on what the kid’s interests are and where they have to keep them. Most of the swine are kept at Honey Ridge.”

Honey Ridge Agricenter, located near Guyton, is a 324-acre farm owned and operated by the school district. It was acquired in 2016 and has become one of the focal points of agriculture education in the county.

“We are building a 10-bay facility so there will be more spots for those animals,” Kersey said. “That will help with the interest, too.”

Portal agriculture teacher Caroline Waldrep, who judged the Effingham County Fair hogs and rabbits, wishes her school district had a facility like the agricenter.

“I think every school district should have a Honey Ridge,” she said. “That’s an awesome thing.”

The agricenter opens a door to important educational experiences, Waldrep added.

“If you don’t have a farm to keep a hog, it’s pretty hard to keep one at home,” she said. “We found that out last year with a couple of my kids. They had great pens for like goats or sheep but somehow the hogs would get out of them every time.”

Waldrep agreed with Kersey that participation in swine shows is cyclical.

“In Portal, ours is exactly the opposite (of Effingham County),” she said. “We only had two lambs and five goats but we had 15-20 hogs.”

Waldrep showed cattle, sheep and hogs when she was an agriculture student.

“My favorite was hogs,” she said. “I think that rubs off on my students a little more.”