With pigs squealing and mud splattering, the teams at the Monroe County Fair’s Hug-a-Pig competition Wednesday evening got exactly what they signed up for.
Teams competed in groups of three and had one minute to wrestle a pig from the large, mud-filled ring into the small bin at the center. All team members started with a hand on the surrounding fence and began chasing the pig once the timer started.
Amidst country music playing loudly over the sound system and barnyard smells of pigs, mud and sawdust, competitors took their turns in the pigpen. Some entered the pen barefoot, others wearing knee-high stockings or work boots. Slogging through the mud and water was slow and more than one team ran out of time. The one-minute limit went quickly, especially as all of the pig’s legs had to be inside the bin and all team members had to have a hand on the pig in order to finish the task.
Whether they caught their pig or just ran out of time, all participants exited the pen needing a change of clothes. A fire truck was on hand to hose off competitors.
Savannah Ziehli, part of the TACU team, competed for the second time this year. She liked the event, though she felt out of her element.
“You get to get muddy and have fun with your coworkers,” she said.
She remembered that her team’s pig was bigger last year and wrestling it more difficult. The pigs used for this year’s event were small − not about to win any blue ribbons for their size.
Lovin’ Pork, last year’s defending champion team in the business category, came in at 9.5 seconds this year and donated their $250 to the Sparta Area Cancer Society. The second-place team in the business category, the Pig Ploppers, came in at 11.28 seconds and also donated their winnings, $150, to the Sparta Area Cancer Society.
In the open division, team Shakin’ Bacon took 9.23 seconds, winning second place.
The Hippy Piggies, of Sparta, won the open division with this year’s best time − 6.67 seconds.
“It’s like a rush,” Hippy Piggies team member Mirissa Speicher said.
It was the third year of competing for Speicher and her teammates Mara Johnson and Rion Windsor.
“We got dirty,” Johnson said.
According to Chris Schreier, president of the Monroe County Fair board, more teams competed than in previous years, and the crowd was bigger, too.
“The publicity didn’t hurt us,” he said, referring to the “Say No to Hug-a-Pig” campaign.
The campaign rented a billboard on the north end of Tomah to protest the pig wrestling event on the grounds that it was cruel and stressful for the animals.
The campaign leader, Lynn Pauly of the Madison-based Alliance for Animals and the Environment, appeared at the Tomah City Council meeting on July 12 to present a petition calling for the event to be cancelled. However, the council declined to take any action, and Hug-a-Pig went on as planned. There were no protestors at the event.