Swine Bring 'Olympig' Racing to County Fairs It's summer, and that means the Ham Bone Express pig races are firing up county fairs around the country. Run by an Arkansas-based couple, the franchise claims to have "the swiftest swine off the line." The grand prize? A delicious Oreo cookie.

Swine Bring 'Olympig' Racing to County Fairs

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It's August. It's hot. It's sticky. You're bored. School is coming and you don't want to go back. But you're worried if you don't enjoy every single summertime activity, you will regret it.

But you've already splashed in the swimming pool.

(Soundbite of children playing in swimming pool)

ROBERTS: You've grilled more steaks than you can count.

(Soundbite of grilling sound)

ROBERTS: You've cheered all in the local baseball team.

(Soundbite of cheering)

ROBERTS: One way people fill up the hours of a long, lazy summer weekend is going to a county fair. And we're here at the Montgomery County Fair in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where you can find the usual rides.

(Soundbite of carnival music)


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: …about who's next, who's ready, we're going to raising…

ROBERTS: A lot of food on a stick.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Free samples, all made in China. It's mangoes…

ROBERTS: Live duck shows.

(Soundbite of noise)

ROBERTS: And here there's also pig races.

Mr. CODY BOGER (Organizer, Ham Bone Express): My name is Cody Boger. I have the Ham Bone Express racing pigs. We've always been in show business. My dad was a rodeo clown and then he rode buffalos in Ringling Brothers Circus. And now we've evolved into the fair business.

ROBERTS: What kind of pigs are they?

Mr. BOGER: Well, we have Yorkshire pigs this year. They're just pink pigs, just the standard pink pigs, 15, 16 pounds about two months old.

ROBERTS: Do they get bigger than that?

Mr. BOGER: Oh, yeah. They'll get six or 800 pounds.

ROBERTS: What do you do with them when they got that big?

Mr. BOGER: Give them back to the farmer and he gives me more little.

ROBERTS: And are they slaughtered for meat? Do they breed stock? What are they?

Mr. BOGER: I don't want to ask what happens to them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOGER: They are mostly breed stock, though.

ROBERTS: So if you only have them for three months, you don't get real attached to them?

Mr. BOGER: Not really attached. It only takes two days to train them. They're very smart. You run around in front of them with a plate full of Oreos. And once they figure out what's waiting for them at the other end, it's very simple.

ROBERTS: How did you figure out that an Oreo was the right prize?

Mr. BOGER: They just always seem to take the cookies and Oreos the most. Oreos - everybody knows what an Oreo is though and pigs like them, too.

ROBERTS: And you - how many races a day?

Mr. BOGER: Four a day, generally, five on weekends.

ROBERTS: And do you call them all?

Mr. BOGER: No, my wife calls them.


Mr. BOGER: She's better with people than I am.

Ms. GABRIELLE BOGER (Organizer, Ham Bone Express): Hi. I'm Gabrielle Boger with the Ham Bone Express Racing Pig Show.

ROBERTS: Did you grow up in a show business family, too?

Ms. BOGER: Yes. I grew up on a carnival. My grandparents own a carnival in the South. Cody came over to work on my grandparents' carnival. We started dating and we're married shortly after.

ROBERTS: And did you ever expect to be doing pig racing?

Ms. BOGER: Not before I was married, not until I met Cody.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BOGER: Just about three minutes to show time, folks. Just three minutes for the world champion NPRA, National Pig Racing Association champion…

ROBERTS: So this is the Ham Bone Express pig racetracks. It's set up like a real racetrack - a circle with, of course, the black-and-white checkered flags are up along, and some sawdust for the pigs to run on. There is an infield and there's a starting gate. It's not quite the Kentucky Derby, but you can picture it.

Starting gate with four slots where the pigs are put in the back, the doors go up and off they go.

Ms. BOGER: From Los Angeles, California, our top seeds are the 10th-time world champion runners.

(Soundbite of racing commentator)

Ms. BOGER: Past the Oreos, (unintelligible) place out there, So (unintelligible) cheer them. (unintelligible) the center aisle.

(Soundbite of cheers)

Ms. BOGER: They're at post.

(Soundbite of warning shot)

Ms. BOGER: And - now.

(Soundbite of cheers)

(Soundbite of racing commentator)

Ms. BOGER: Number three, number three, (unintelligible) my number three, cheerleader (unintelligible).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Pig, pig, pig, pig, pig. Pig, pig, pig, pig. Come here, Curly(ph). Pig, pig, pig, pig.

Mr. BOGER: Pig racing is a lot like (unintelligible). The winner, they race for an Oreo cookie. You put one Oreo cookie in the tray and some crumbs around the edge, and where they get the cookie and where they get the crumbs, just like last year.

(Soundbite of pig squeals)

Mr. BOGER: Okay, (unintelligible). Press that, but I want you to pull the handle (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of song "County Fair")

Mr. RICHIE McDONALD (Lead Singer, Lonestar): (Singing) Twenty bucks buy ten coupons. Two ears of corn and one ride on the tirt-a-whirl with your favorite girl. Keep on walking down the midway, three-eyed goats and games to play. Step right up, Carney says, try your luck. You can't tell the sweet smell of summer in the air. Whole town shuts down, everybody's going to be there. Down at the county fair. Big time, big top, big crowd, big hair. There's nothing bigger all around the country anywhere than a county fair.

ROBERTS: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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