A pig tale

Swine show superintendents won't hog all credit for event's success

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As he hopped out of his truck and walked up to the hog building at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, Nick Charchalis greeted John Haddan with a simple question.

"Are you ready for another year?" he said.

"Sure," Haddan replied.

The acknowledgement of the task the two face in the upcoming week and a half at the Moffat County Fair served as the unofficial beginning of the swine show.

Along with Rick Murr, the three are the Moffat County Fair swine superintendents.

The next week and a half will be spent setting up for and putting on the show at the fair. A process they predict takes nearly 1,000 hours of work but they are quick to point out that it isn't a three-man show.

Much of the credit goes to volunteers, Charchalis said.

"A lot of people do good things for the hog program," Charchalis said.

The 10-year-old building is an example of what volunteers have done for the Moffat County hog program. When it was decided that the hog show needed its own building, it was pieced together with volunteer labor. The tradition of volunteers helping with the program continues today to the point that the three superintendents were hesitant to give much credit to themselves.

"There's no way the three of us could run the whole show," Murr said.

"We're the ones who get recognized because of our positions," Haddan said. "But the ones who don't get the recognition deserve

the credit."

Along with the volunteer parents, 4-Hers, FFA members and the superintendents, the hog program in Moffat County has grown over the last decade from a couple of pens outside of the main barn to its own building housing up to 165 pigs.

"This has always been more of a beef and sheep area," Charchalis said. "But there were kids who wanted to raise swine so we tried to build the program."

As the program grew, so did the need for more help. Charchalis brought on Haddan as a superintendent because he "needed some expertise." Haddan had experience with swine shows at the National Western Stock Show in Denver.

Murr said he became the third superintendent after he was hired as the agricultural teacher at Moffat County High School. Originally from Rifle, he has been raising pigs since he was 13.

In the next few days, the three will organize the entries for the show and set up the barn. A storage barn 11 months out of the year, it will be converted into a maze of metal pen separators filled with pigs of all sizes. One of the more challenging tasks for the pig owners and the superintendents is getting the animals to make the 40-yard journey from the hog barn to the main barn.

"Taking 120 pigs from one barn to the other and through the ring can be challenging," Murr said. "It would be nice if the barns were connected, but we're fortunate to have a barn in the first place."

At the show, the superintendents' responsibilities are to run and organize the event by making sure that regulations are met and order is kept. Behind the scenes, volunteers are making sure the pigs don't fight and that junior leaders are conducting classes.

"We have a good group of junior leaders who do a good job of teaching the younger kids," Charchalis said.

"The junior leaders are another group that never gets the recognition that it deserves," Haddan said.

With the help of junior leaders and volunteers, the growth of the local interest in hogs has followed what Haddan called a "hot market" for hogs in the country. All three superintendents said hogs provide good experience to the younger ranchers and farmers.

"A pig is a lot easier to corral than a 1,300-pound cow," Murr said. "It's a good project for younger kids and it's affordable."

When the shows are over, the superintendents measure their success by the improvement they saw in the animals from the year before and if their owners had a safe time.

"Our main focus is the health of the pigs and safety of the kids," Charchalis said.

Last year, in the market portion of the show, the average sale of a hog was more than $5 a pound -- one of the best rates the Moffat County hog market has seen. In addition, the show side of the week has become more competitive.

"It is a tough hog show," Haddan said. "We have judges come in from places that are more of a hog area and they are impressed by our hogs."

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