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The pig-greasing team at the Fair

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 November 2013 at 12:00 am

KNOWLESVILLE – Every night at the Orleans County 4-H Fair, teams attempt to climb a pole slathered in grease. It is a popular tradition at the fair.

Before the grease pole, the fair had a greased pig competition. Actually, the pig didn’t get greased – the competitors did.

“It’s hard enough to hold on to a pig, but when you’re all greased up you can’t hold on to anything,” said Ed Neal, who competed in the event.

I was at the fairgrounds on Friday, meeting with Jennifer Wagester, the new director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Wagester had a copy of an anniversary yearbook that I believe covered fair highlights from 1966 to 1991.

I flipped through it and spotted a picture of the pig-greasing team in 1969. One of the team members, Gene Smith, was my friend. Gene was on the Albion Board of Education for many years. He also served as the volunteer electrician at the fairgrounds, wiring most of the facilities and barns at the site in Knowlesville.

Gene died on April 14, 2010 at age 71. At the fair the following July, the Extension board dedicated one of the buildings in his honor. Until yesterday, I had no idea Gene was part of a greased pig team. I didn’t even know there was such a competition.

Neal, the current chairman of the board for the Extension, said the competition was short-lived, maybe for just two or three fairs.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was entertainment for the crowd. The entertainment back then was simple things.”