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Published: Monday, 8/11/2003

Sister's win eases pain of state fair hog ruling

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A 271-pound hog named Fred may have helped redeem the Creager family's standing in the swine industry.

Bailey Creager's crossbred hog was named grand champion in the Ohio State Fair market hog show yesterday, less than six weeks after a controversial decision to disqualify her sister Taylor's hog as grand champion of last year's show.

“I think people wanted us to win more than anybody else,” said their father, Todd Creager, a Fulton County hog breeder. “They said, `If we couldn't win, we wanted you to win.'”

Bailey's hog will sell Wednesday night in the fair's Sale of Champions and she is expected to pocket $8,000 from the hog worth just $120 on the open market.

Her hog likely will sell for far more than that; Taylor's hog sold for $20,000 last year. Grocery store chains, restaurants, and other businesses bid up championship animals to gain publicity and support 4-H and FFA. But to reduce cheating and give cash awards to winners of other contests, the state fair caps the amount championship sellers take home.

Bailey, who is 9 and going into the fourth grade at Elm Street Elementary School in Wauseon, said she will split her winnings with her siblings and save her share for college.

“I want to be a vet because I love animals,” she said.

But she said she will abide by her father's decision to sit out of next year's Ohio State Fair show as the family regroups after last year's devastation.

After Taylor's hog had won, its carcass was inspected by fair officials, as is customary. But Everett the hog, it turned out, had a tiny amount of testicular tissue still inside - a violation of the rules that require that market hogs be castrated.

Although the Ohio Department of Agriculture officials said that they didn't believe the Creagers intentionally did anything wrong, they ruled that Taylor would not receive the $8,000 from the Sale of Champions. She has been asked to return her championship banner.

Exhibitors in the weekend youth hog show responded with a petition, signed by hundreds, asking the Ohio Department of Agriculture to change its rule.

“The way the rule is currently written, any innocent person could be in violation,” the petition says.

Taylor, 12, and her father, have appealed the Ohio Department of Agriculture's decision and requested a hearing in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, saying the hog could not have been affected by such a small amount of tissue.

But the Creagers tried to funnel their devastation over the controversy into work on this year's hog exhibits.

“We just worked very hard at it,” said Bailey, who was old enough to exhibit in the 4-H and FFA show for the first time this year.

She was nervous in the fair shows, she said, because it was her first time competing at the state fair. But she carried the top prize out of almost every show ring she entered.

Three of the four hogs that the Creagers took to Columbus won breed championships. So when judges had narrowed down the show's 845 hogs to 12 champions competing for the top overall prize, the Creager sisters had three of the top 12 hogs and had to ask a friend to show one for them.

In addition to Fred, Bailey had the champion Hampshire breed. Both hogs were born on the family's farm near Wauseon. Taylor exhibited the champion Chester White breed, which finished third out of 845. She purchased that hog from an Iowa breeder.

Both girls won their age group in showmanship, a competition of how well exhibitors present and handle their animals.

Such standings should be good for sales of show pigs from the Creager farm. Mr. Creager had blamed rumors for decreasing his sales this year.



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