Pigs aren’t flying, but they are racing at county fair
County fairs offer something different for everyone. Square dancing, the demolition derby, the horse races and the tractor pull, among other things — like pigs racing, believe it or not.
With each passing year, something new is added to the mix in the hope that it will entice more people to attend the Ottawa County Fair, a local tradition that is celebrating its 49th year.
This year, the pot-bellied pig races gave the week-long festival a new twist.
One of the world's best chainsaw carvers, Pennsylvania native
Under the direction of Ed and Pam Chase of Lake City, Florida, the four pigs, whose names range from Justin Tenderloin to Dale Earnhog to Hamma Montana, engage in a competition that features them running around a track twice before “swimming” across a 12-foot long pool that is two feet in depth. Sorry — there is no betting on these races.
These racing pigs have a pretty good lifestyle, for a pig. They spend their time in an air-conditioned trailer when they're not racing, are treated to some animal crackers at the finish line of each race and also eat fresh fruit and vegetables as part of their diet.
“It's all a bunch of good, clean family fun,” Pam said. “I tell dry jokes, we play music, and we get the crowd involved and have a lot of fun. We really love what we do.”
But it may be another pig, Lucy Lynn, that draws the most attention.
The 19-month old miniature pot-belly pig, who weighs just 13 pounds, has a wardrobe that includes sweaters, dresses, tutus, hats and other clothing and accessories. At the fair, she performs tricks similar to that of a dog, like sitting, standing on her back feet, turning in a circle, to entertain the crowd.
Pam notes that the facilities are constructed and maintained by Ed, 56.
“We use a 60 by 70 foot area with a track, trailer, the barrier and the pool without the crowd,” Pam said. “It's pretty big. I couldn't believe he built all this. It's really beautiful.”
Pam notes that they've performed in a number of states throughout the Midwest and the South, including Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, New York, Iowa, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and of course, Florida.
“We call it a working vacation,” Pam, 55, said. “We get to travel and see everybody.”
Recently, the Chases have performed shows at Disney World and in downtown Miami, a sign that their business, which is in its fifth year, is growing. The couple's website, www.chasesracingpigs.com, has pictures and provides a review of what each show entails.
Chainsaw carvers a hit — again
Another event that always draws interest to the fair every year is the chainsaw carvings. They are sculpted in front of an audience and then sold at auction following the show.
Considered one of the world's best, Dennis Beach, showcased his talents at the fair. His website, www.dennisbeachcarvings.com, features photos and a video showcasing his work.
Beach, a Wapwallopen, Pennsylvania native, has been carving for 28 years, a skill he learned when he started to work as a tree trimmer. The affable Beach travels the world showcasing his talents, having been to the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Germany and Austria. Most recently, he competed at the World Championships in Germany, winning the silver medal. And in 2009, he won the gold medal for his efforts.
“It's very satisfying,” he said. “I like it very much. It's really hard work, but it's rewarding. I get to travel all over the world and go to different competitions in different countries.
“In the summertime, I do the fairs; I carve right up on the stage. It's nice meeting the fans — I do go out and try talking with people. I spend so much of my time getting ready to carve, carving and then doing the finishing touches. I like doing the county fairs — it's hard work and they're six days long. On the seventh day, I pack up and then I drive to the next fair. On the seventh day, God rested, but I don't,” he says with a laugh. “It's a lot of running. I've got a little camper that I connect to my truck and I travel around.”
Considered one of the world's best chainsaw carvers, Pennsylvania native Dennis Beach, showcasing his talents at the Ottawa County Fair. (Press photo by Ken Grosjean)