A Boy And His Pig Journey To The Fair

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Every morning at 6:45 a.m., Caleb Burket, 11, struts down to his six-acre family farm and feeds his pig Bacon before heading off to school. Bacon is the pig's name, not its breakfast.

Caleb has fattened up and trained the pig for the last three months, hoping for a big payoff at the 54th Annual Northern Gila County Fair.

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Caleb Burket, 11, gives some love and attention to his pig, Bacon. Burket and Bacon will be parting ways this weekend after the 4-H livestock show and auction at the 54th Annual Northern Gila County Fair. The fair opens Friday and runs through Sunday, with exhibits and events at the Payson Event Center and the Tonto Apache Recreation Center.

When Caleb received the red Duroc pig -- better known as Scuba Pig because of its ability to blow bubbles in water -- it weighed a mere 86 pounds.

Now, at five months, Bacon/Scuba tops the scale at a little less than 250 pounds.

Caleb said hopefully the pig does not get much larger, or it will move into a higher weight bracket.

The pig gains on average 2.4 pounds a day on a six-pound pellet diet, said Caleb's dad Mike.

At the Sept. 5 livestock judging and show at the fair, Caleb will put Bacon on display. He will walk him around and steer him using a pig bat.

He is judged on showmanship, dress and the finished product, Bacon.

After judging, the pig heads to auction where it could fetch $6 a pound, a potential profit of $500, Mike said.

Heidi Kueny, whose two daughters have been in the 4-H Club for nine years, said with the sagging economy there might not be buyers for the number of children.

"This year alone I am concerned about the kids when there is not enough community support," Kueny said. "4-H is a community supported organization of school-age children. This is one way for the community to support kids outside of schools."

In the last few years, the number of 4-H Club volunteers declined, but the number of children involved increased, Kueny said.

"I am really hoping that the kids don't get discouraged and stay with it," she said. "This show makes the kids' year. Even if people aren't buyers, just coming out shows support."

Asked why he became involved with the 4-H Club, Caleb said, "because it is fun and you get money."

The money earned last year went toward the cost of Bacon and supplies.

"I just grow it, show it and they butcher it," Caleb said.

Kueny's daughter Marissa, 16, spent $1,800 on feed for her steer this year.

"The kids put out a great deal of money for these animals," Kueny said. "It would be a blessing to break even."

Becoming attached to the animal is hard to avoid.

"I get attached," Caleb said of his pig last year -- Carrie Underwood. "I used to rub her belly and sleep on her."

Young 4-H'ers start with pigs because there is less of an attachment issue, Mike said. Older children have steers and lambs.

Having Bacon "has been real fun. I ride it and walk it around," Caleb said.

The only part of competition that makes Caleb nervous is doing a demo in front of other 4-H Club members.

"I have a nervous stutter," he said.

The demos are a time to show other 4-H'ers and leaders what they have learned about their animal, Mike said.

This is the second year Caleb is auctioning off a pig. He did not place in competition last year.

His Hampshire pig, Carrie Underwood, "was mean and hard to control," Caleb said.

Bacon has been easier to care for.

Besides being fun, raising an animal "teaches them responsibility," Mike said. "They have 100 days to raise them and make sure they are taken care of."

"It really, really makes the kids extremely responsible," Kueny said.

To see Caleb and other 4-H'ers compete, head to the 54th Annual Northern Gila County Fair livestock judging and show at 6 p.m., Friday, Sept. 5 at the Payson Event Center.

The auction of 4-H Club and FFA animals will be at 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 6 at the Payson Event Center.

Other animals on display are steers, lambs, goats and rabbits.

The Tonto Apache Tribe Exhibit Hall, where there are other displays, opens to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, Sept. 5 to Sunday, Sept. 7.

The fair will have an Extreme Ink Games and Rides carnival running Wednesday through Sunday. There will also be a dance from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Fair books, containing entry forms and requirements, are available at the Payson Parks and Recreation Office at Green Valley Park, at both the Payson and Pine Public Libraries, and online at www.ci.payson.az.us. Go to "documents" and click on "community events."

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