Animals dominate second day of DuPage County Fair
The animals were the stars of the show at the second day of the DuPage County Fair in Wheaton.
At the Swine Time Pig race, little piggies ran as fast as their legs could carry them to be the first around a small red course, racing not for glory or fame, but for the one Oreo cookie awaiting the winner at the finish line.
Fans cheered for their favorite competitors, such as Lindsay Lo-Ham, Kermit the Hog, and Hillary Rod-Ham Clinton, while swinemaster Matt Schoebel kept them entertained with plenty of pig puns.
"These guys are just ham-ateurs now," Schoebel said. "They're hoping to make the pro-ham circuit by fall."
Schoebel, who has been serving as the race announcer since taking over the family business in 2005, says pigs are naturally competitive.
Some are faster than others, he said, and some just like the taste of the cookie more.
Convincing a pig to race is like teaching a dog to sit, he says.
"Once they realize where the cookie is," he said, "they're willing to run for it."
The pigs will race at 11 a.m. and 1, 2:30, 4:30 and 6 p.m. each day of the fair, which continues through Sunday at 2015 Manchester Road.
"Their jobs are only about 30 seconds during the show," Schoebel said. "After they run around, they go hang out in the locker room and have a 'Mud-weiser.'"
Schoebel said he doesn't have much trouble coming up with material because his family has been writing and rewriting the script for roughly 25 years.
"You start hearing pig names in daily things," he said.
In another area of the fairgrounds, Alexi Linneman, 16, of South Elgin, showed off her own pig during the animal exhibition.
Instead of an Oreo, Linneman got a shiny purple ribbon for her efforts in raising her barrow pig.
"When you raise them for so long, it's good to be able to get them out and do something with them," Linneman said.
She said she used to get nervous going in the ring as an 8-year-old newbie, but now that she's had some experience she doesn't get as scared. Still, she admits, it can be challenging to control such a large animal.
"I try to keep them calm, get them out there, not freak them out," Linneman said.
When animals weren't competing, they were being ridden by eager fairgoers.
Cash Loiacono, 19, rode on a camel for the first time with his girlfriend, Salena Stack, 18. The couple from Winfield enjoyed the ride.
Stack has ridden a horse before, but said it was nothing like riding a camel.
"It's the size," Stack said. "And the hump makes a difference."
Stack said riding and being able to feed the animals made her feel like a little kid again.
"Honestly, where else can you do that?" Loiacono said.