Spectators packed into the show building for the Suwannee River Youth Fair’s annual swine show Monday night. Anxious parents, excited exhibitors and other supporters awaited the selection of new Grand and Reserve champions—the highest honors a swine could receive.
In the end it was Rance Moxley from Williston Sr. FFA who took home the top title of Grand Champion, with Trenton Beaty of Trenton Sr. FFA taking Reserve Champion honors. Cheers from friends and families erupted in the arena as their names were announced over the speaker.
Both Moxley and Beaty said the moment felt surreal. Moxley had only ever shown cows, but was tired of being beaten by his siblings in everything, so he decided to switch to swine. He said he is very happy with his decision.
Beaty has shown for nine years now and said he can’t believe he has finally reached this point.
The final standings for the swine show are as follows:
Members of the local 4-H clubs and FFA chapters raise and prepare their show pigs for months before the fair. Some choose to take on the extra work of participating in the showmanship competition, like Chiefland High School FFA member Regan Varnes.
Varnes was both the senior division showmanship winner and the Supreme Showman—given to the overall best showman in the three age groups.
Varnes, who has competed in various competitions and exhibited various livestock since she was 7 years old, was ecstatic that her hard work landed her two titles.
“I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, every morning, to go to my hog pens,” Varnes said. “I spend about an hour there before I go to school working and feeding and taking care of them. And then I do that again at night after school and work.”
Even with her newly-earned titles, Varnes said the greatest reward is watching other showmen win titles as well.
“I was less excited about me winning than I was about the primary and junior division winners,” Varnes said. “Because I had helped both of them at some point in their show careers.”
Other winners for the swine showmanship are as follows:
Primary Division (3rd-5th grade)
1 – Harley NesSmith
2 – Collyns McGowan
3 – Kaylee Bellamy
Junior Division (6th-8th grade)
1 – William Conquest
2 – Avery Lewis
3 – Jaxon Ridgeway
Senior Division (9th-12th grade)
1 – Regan Varnes
2 – Kinsey Colley
3 – Charly Corbett
Though not all exhibitors choose to participate in showmanship, they all share the same goal of a coveted handshake from judge Paul Wigley—who grew up on a swine farm and “boar” the nickname “Piggly Wigley.” He is responsible for selecting the top hogs among a pool of over 200 swines, which were shown by youth from all over Dixie, Levy and Gilchrist counties.
Every year, Wigley slaps the back of the hogs he has chosen as his Grand and Reserve champions and shakes its exhibitors’ hand. But this year marked Wigley’s final fair after serving as a swine show judge for over 40 years, including at the Suwannee River Fair Swine Show since 2004.
Emotions were high for all in attendance, not just the winners, as they all said goodbye judge Wigley. He assured the crowd that his decision was not a “Tom Brady moment.”
Although he’s judged numerous swine shows in his career, Wigley said he holds a special place in his heart for the Suwannee River Fair. Wigley credits this to the amount of support that the community puts into its children.
The fair’s next big event kicks off at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning with the Suwannee River Fair Feeder Steer and Fat Steer shows. The fair sale is set for Wednesday. More information about the fair can be found on the fair website.