Despite waiting awhile for their turn to be shown, the swine at Friday's Junior Livestock Show seemed to be having a good time.
Several were stretched out on beds of straw, catching some shut-eye while others received spa treatment by owners wielding spray bottles of skin-conditioning agents.
Then there were oinkers like Lulu and Tutu – shown by twins Ryan and Ramie Weaver of New Summerfield FFA – who were hamming it up a bit.
Ramie – in the midst of giving Tutu a good scratch on the neck – looked over at Lulu, who was wagging her stick-straight tail.
“When they do that, it means they're happy,” the 18-year-old smiled.
She and her brother have been entering projects in the county stock show since they were in seventh grade.
“It's fun, I really enjoy doing this,” she said as her brother added, nodding, “each pig has a different personality.”
The 64th annual event – held at the Cherokee County Stock Show & Exposition Center on West Loop 456 – drew 373 exhibitors, who showed 525 entries in nine divisions, said Royce Traylor, stock show treasurer.
The three-day event “draws a bunch of attendees,” including special visitors like those from Rusk ISD's preschool program as well as a local Rusk independent preschool, he said.
“A lot of kids have never seen an animal,” he said.
Last year's event pulled in $222,000 from an auction of the different projects, funds that are turned right back around into the program through things like scholarships.
However, it's not about how much or how little is raised, but about focusing on youth in the community.
“It's all about the kids,” Traylor said, adding that he's now seeing second and third generations of families involved in the local event. “It's kind of like a family reunion for me.”
And family seems to a key component of the annual event, as siblings watched over or helped with swine projects Fri-day.
As Jake Bender, 8, groomed his barrow (young male pig) “Mack,” his dad Morgan occasionally called out suggestions to him.
The elder Bender said that while this was Jake's first year to show an animal, his sisters Jaclyn, 17, and Julissa, 11, “have been doing this for about three years, although they all have been raising animals at the (family's Troup) farm since they were little.”
Across the way, 11-year-old Claire Kellis was helping groom her sister Brittany's 18-month-old barrow “Roy” while waiting for shop projects to be judged.
“This is the first year I've done shop,” entering a saddle rack into competition, she said, adding, “my pig died, so I decided to do different class.”
Meanwhile, the girls' youngest sister, Kamryn, a first-grader at Rusk Elementary, participated for the first time this year, winning a ribbon in the Pee Wee Showman category.
She excitedly showed a visitor her prize, saying she enjoyed being part of this year's event because “it's fun.”
Friday's events included goat, beef cattle and shop project judging.
The annual competition is opent to youths from Future Farmers of America clubs in Alto, Wells, Bullard, Jackson-ville, Rusk, New Summer-field and Troup as well as the Classic, Cloverleaf, Footbridge, Hearts in Bloom, Lookout and Wells 4-H groups.
9 a.m. – Horses
1 p.m. – Queen's contest
Noon - 3 p.m. – Bar-becue catered by Sadler's
3 p.m – Livestock auction, followed by shop project sale