What makes a pig run? Cookies, according to Kathryn Rosaire, a 16-year-old girl from Florida who is helping operate the pig racing show during this year's Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.
The Statesboro Kiwanis Club ramped up entertainment for this year's fair, adding nightly musical entertainment to an assortment of specialty shows. Member Mike Bowen said the Lady Houdini Thrill Show, located just past the main entrance of the fairgrounds, has been a great hit this year. So has Bob Bohme's Family Entertainment with "Farmily Feud" and a magic show. Sam's Path Petting Zoo is once again a major attraction, and each night this week, loud squeals came from both the crowds and the pigs as Rosaire's Royal Racers put on a real-live, old-fashioned, carnival-style show.
Based out of Sarasota, Florida, the pig racing show has been around for more than 30 years, Rosaire said. Her father, Wayne Rosaire, inherited the business from a friend who retired, and she grew up being home-schooled while her family ran the pig racing show.
Maybe that is why she can tell listeners all about the snow-white Yorkshire pigs and the Hampshires, black with white bands around their shoulders and front legs. It's also likely that growing up involved in the family business taught her how to rattle off information and commentary in a classic carnival voice, keeping the attention of those who stop their rambling around the fairgrounds to catch the show.
The pigs - five Yorkshires, five Hampshires and four Asian potbellies - are fed all the pig feed they want daily, but when it's show time, they run for the sweet stuff, Rosaire said. Cookies at the end of the 190-feet-long raceway (called Pork Chop Downs) means the pigs run for their prize - that is, all but the potbellied pigs. They don't run; they waddle, slowly, causing gales of laughter as viewers urge their picks to pick up the pace.
Kids and their parents are allowed to "bet" on the pigs and win prizes if their choices cross the finish line first. Special prizes go to children in the crowd chosen by Rosaire as "pig rooters," who shout encouragement to the portly porkers.
With names like "Sizzlin' Sausage," "Harry Hambone" and "Oscar Mayer," the pigs are more than moneymakers, Rosaire said. They are not butchered, but when they grow too big for the race track, they are retired to the family farm.
As the pigs get ready to run around the checkered-flag-adorned race track, people in the crowd dance along to music blaring over the speakers. Kids especially get a kick out of the races, and some even want to take the pigs home.
Skylar Akins, 4, was excited Wednesday when she won a medal and other prizes for her service as a pig rooter. However, at first, she mistakenly believed she had won an actual pig. When asked what she would do with a pig, she said she would "take it home and buy it food." Her parents, Stan and Leslie Akins, had to explain that the pigs must remain with the Rosaires.
Traveling to area fairs and carnivals is an exciting and rewarding lifestyle, Rosaire said.
"People ask about the social life of being home-schooled, but that's what I enjoy about this. I meet new people all the time," she said.
The Rosaire's Royal Racers will perform tonight and Saturday, as will the other entertainment shows. The Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair opens tonight at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m.
Holli Deal Saxon maybe reached at (912) 489-9414.