The pungent smell of wood shavings and pig manure encased the swine barn at the Park County Fair.
There were rows upon rows of metal pens appendaged to each other, with each one containing a pig and its owner. The owners worked in a frenzy to get their pigs ready for the swine showmanship competition on July 28.
Cody local, Brittlyn George, 12, stood inside one of those metal pens, holding a spray bottle and brush. She was determined to get her pig, Peppa, as clean as possible.
This was her fourth year of showing pigs for 4-H.
“Pigs can be very stubborn,” George said. “And it’s kind of scary being in the arena because there’s a lot of different pigs in there.”
Even with the challenges, George enjoys competing.
“I like the fair in general [and] I just like doing showmanship,” she said.
This year, she didn’t get to prepare for the show as earnestly as usual due to Peppa’s health.
“I usually work with them a lot, but this year, she was really skinny, so I didn’t really work with her,” George said. “But she gained weight, and she does pretty good in the show ring.”
Throughout her four years of competing, her hope has simply been to do her best.
“I always hope that I do pretty good,” she said.
George sold Peppa on the last day of the fair, but she said it isn’t hard for her to sell them.
For Dace Bennett, 18, of Meeteetse, it’s rather difficult to sell his pigs at the end of the fair every year.
“It’s hard when you create that bond with them,” he said.
Bennett is a part of both FFA and 4-H and has been showing pigs for roughly 11 years.
“My aunt raises pigs. She has a big operation in Saratoga, Wyoming, and ever since she started, I’ve been showing them,” Bennett said. “My friends always ran to the carnival, but my aunt kept me here [in the swine barn].”
He is in his last year of showing pigs, as he heads off to college.
“I’ve grown up doing it all my life,” he said. “And it’s going to be weird not doing it next year.”
As Bennett pointed out his pigs, astutely named Trena, Barbara and Bubbles, he reminisced on his time in swine showmanship.
“It’s kind of like taking care of little kids,” he said. “Especially when you’re waking up every morning to take care of them.”
It’s the bond with the pigs that Bennett enjoys the most.
“Forming the connection with the animals is awesome. I love it, and I always have,” he said. “Showing is my favorite part of the fair.”
Even though it was his last year, Bennett won’t completely walk away from swine showmanship. He plans on teaching his nieces how to show pigs.
Ethan Salzman, 16, of Meeteetse, stood in the middle of a pig pen, clad in his blue FFA jacket and scrolling on his phone as he enjoyed some downtime following his turn in the showmanship ring.
“I only showed once [and] I didn’t place,” he said. “I should have worked with them more, and I could have showed better, but it is what it is.”
Salzman has been showing pigs since he was around 12 years old. While his sisters show steers, he shows pigs.
“They’re easy to do, easy to clean and easy to work,” he said. “When it gets closer to the fair, I practice with them morning and night.”
Salzman sold Harry and Lloyd in the junior livestock sale and said selling pigs is his favorite part about competing.
“I like selling them because I get all the money,” he said. “And I keep one extra and get to eat them at the end of the year.”
Salzman will show pigs again next year along with the multitudes of others who feel compelled to try their hand at swine showmanship.