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Walk of Honor: Champion hog paraded through Ohio State Fair

Zigzagging through the fair’s midway and concession stands, the prize winning hog was a sight to behold. Children ran both toward and away from the 262-pound animal, not sure what to make of the hog as it made its way to the Ohio State Fair’s Sale of Champions.

“Is it real?” 17-year-old Ashton Frey of Upper Sandusky recalled one of the children asking him of his grand champion market barrow (castrated male hog). At the time Frey was concentrating on getting his 4-H hog to travel half a mile to the arena where it would be auctioned off. That’s quite the distance for a hog used to walking only a few minutes at a time. A parade of friends and family members helped answer questions from fairgoers who had never seen a hog up close before.

Just before entering the arena, the animal was sprayed with water and cleaned up for its grand entrance. After a whirlwind of bidding, the hog was auctioned for $36,000, of which $10,000 went to Frey and his family and the rest to the state fair’s Youth Reserve Program, which provides funding for scholarships, 4-H, FFA and other youth programming. Ohio Farm Bureau partnered with Bob Evans Farms, Event Marketing Strategies, Huffman’s Market and Amusements of America to purchase the barrow as a way to support youth ag education and other worthy causes.

For Frey, making it to the winner’s circle was the culmination of hard work. Rain or shine, Frey and his 15-year-old brother, Kaden, were in the barns every morning by 7 a.m. taking care of their hogs. This year the Freys, who raise show pigs, took 11 to the state fair in August and eight to the Wyandot County Fair in September. Each hog was fed a special diet, had a daily clean bed of pine shavings, was walked and was brushed (which helps tame them). The brothers spent one weekend dividing up the barns and putting together pens so each hog could have its own space.

The $10,000 prize was split evenly among Frey and his brother and their two sisters, Kamree, 12, and Madison, 9. Wyandot County Farm Bureau members Nathan and Marie Frey couldn’t help but beam with pride while describing their children’s hard work on the family farm, which dates back to 1845.

“I’ve always dreamed of doing that walk to the winner’s circle. We did it,” Ashton Frey said quietly.

Going to a good cause

This year’s grand champion market barrow helped raise money for three worthy causes:

Ohio State Fair’s Youth Reserve Program. Frey’s hog generated $26,000 for the program, which provides funding for scholarships, 4-H, FFA and other youth programming. To date, this program has raised $3.2 million for approximately 33,600 youth exhibitors.

Cultivating a Cure. Nationwide Board member and former Ohio Farm Bureau President Brent Porteus started this fundraiser to raise money for cancer treatment and prevention research at Ohio State University. Half of the hog was auctioned off at this year’s event, which raised more than $75,000. Over the past six years, the event has raised about $350,000.

4-H Foundation. Half of the hog was auctioned off at the Celebration of Youth event in October to raise funds for the foundation, which raises more than $1 million annually for 4-H programming across the state.

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Amy Graves 

Amy Graves is a freelance writer from Franklin County.