Catching a pig greased in Crisco is more organized than you might expect.
“Believe it or not, there are rules to a greased pig contest,” said Emily Altman, who organized the pig chase for this week’s second annual Cleburne County Fair. Participants ranging in age from 6 years to adulthood pursue the pig in the name of prizes, heeding rules like “don’t tackle the pigs” to make sure the competition is humane — and one heck of a show.
“Last year the crowd was so deep to watch it, we couldn’t even get the contestants into the ring,” said Altman.
If pigs won’t fly, this is the next best thing.
“We’re really trying to keep it all like an old county fair,” said Tanya Maloney, executive director of the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce. “Last year people started getting nostalgic and talking about their grandparents taking them when they were really young.”
The fair captures that sense of nostalgia through events like a rodeo with bulls and barrel racing, a fiddle contest for area musicians, livestock shows and even a pie-eating contest, as well as food from local vendors and organizations. There are also more modern activities, like zip-lining and live music by the Steel City Jug Slammers, a Birmingham blues and jug band.
The fair originated as an alternative to the Chamber’s yearly golf tournament fundraiser, instead allowing local vendors to show off their wares and get involved not only with the members of the Cleburne community, but visitors from outside, as well.
“Last year we had a church that cooked catfish on the day of the fair, and they sold $1,500 worth of catfish that day,” said Maloney. “They used the money to help put a roof on their fellowship hall.”
The fair also gets kids into the entrepreneurial spirit, as area 4-H members show off chickens they’ve raised from only 2 days old to maturity in the “Chick Chain” show. Participants are judged on the quality of their birds, their knowledge and preparation and skill in animal husbandry. The birds are then sold at a silent auction open to all fairgoers, after which they can be used for laying eggs or as meat stock.
“For most of the kids, this is brand new; they’ve never raised birds,” said Jennie Hargrove, regional 4-H agent for Cleburne County. “They’re all really excited about it, and they’ve built fancy houses for the birds. The kids are really proud of them.”