Showing off the goods

Published 10:21 am Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kael Chapman, 3, of Tipton, Iowa shows a Hampshire gilt for the National Barrow Show crowd Monday. This is KaelÕs second year helping out at the National Barrow Show. -Trey Mewes/

High school and college students from across the nation are feeling the thrill of competition at the Mower County Fairgrounds this week. Yet they’re more likely to hear the squealing of a pig than the roaring of a crowd.

The 65th National Barrow Show is in town this week, drawing 4-Hers, FFA students and agriculture fanatics from all corners of the U.S. to show their skills judging and raising big and little pigs.

“It’s a great place to come,” said Ryan Steele, 4-H coach from Lewiston High School. “It’s a good meeting place, you get to see a lot of the same people every year.”

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Steele is a longtime Barrow Show goer, having judged his fair share of hogs about 20 years ago as a high school student. Nowadays, students like Raelynn Thompson, a freshman at Princeton High School in Patoka, Ind. and Tyler Gradert, a senior at Geneseo High School in Geneseo, Ill., judge and help run competitions.

“I enjoy showing barrows,” Gradert said. “It’s fun, and it’s like a vacation.”

Thompson feels the same, as she won Grand Champion in Yorkshire and Purebreed Barrow Sunday, narrowly beating Gradert.

“I love it,” Thompson said. “I want to be in this industry all my life.”

There were future judges and showmen groomed for action during the college-level competitions Monday. Kael Chapman, 3-years-old, of Tipton, Iowa, was herding sows and gilts like an old hand in the barn, ready for action.

Though the show ends Wednesday, visitors and residents alike are happy to celebrate their porcine passion in Austin this week.

“Spam City U.S.A.!” Thompson said.