A look of disbelief flashed over the 12-year-old face of Ben Loesing, when it was announced his 287-pound hog was selected as the grand champion of the 2019 Washington Town & Country Fair Market Hog Show.
Cheers from his fellow club members filled the arena as Loesing’s hog emerged from a field of 185 blue ribbon hogs and 10 red ribbon hogs to take the top spot.
The reserve grand champion was awarded to Evie Bryson, 12, Labadie, for her 277-pound hog.
“When I first made it first in my class I was excited,” Ben said. “When I won at first, I thought I got reserve. When I found out it was grand, I was in shock. Then I just kind of freaked out.”
He added the win is especially sweet since just a few years ago his entire Washington Eager Beavers 4-H Club didn’t fare too well at the Fair.
Ben has been raising and showing hogs on his family’s farm in Labadie since he was 7, but this was the first time he has ever won anything on this scale.
His sister, Abby, 15, took home the gold belt buckle in the intermediate division of showmanship and has shown eight hogs in the past and brought home a blue ribbon every time and a best in class two years ago.
The pair also have a younger sibling who has been shadowing his older siblings in the barn and will be ready to show his own hog for the first time next year.
Loesing said they bought the gilt he named “Rocky” in April when it weighed only 75 pounds.
“Every day I got up early and fed her and walked before it got too hot,” Loesing said. “Then we would go back in the middle of the day and later at night.”
Both Ben and Abby said they understand the hogs they raise are market animals for sale and they look forward to selling their hogs this year and starting the process all over again next spring.
Abby admitted it is a little sad to say goodbye on the last day after they have put in all the hard work the last 120 days, but that is soon eclipsed by a major reward.
“Our favorite part is the bacon,” Abby and Ben both agreed. “The worst part is spending three hours cleaning out pens when it’s 105 degrees out.”
Ben and Abby’s mom, Ann, said the grand champion win came as a complete surprise and is a humbling experience for their family.
“We’ve never set out to raise a grand champion hog, but we’ve always wanted the kids to do their best,” Ann said. “Members of Ben’s 4-H club work very hard and are very supportive of each other. I think all their hard work and dedication definitely could be seen in how well all the kids in the group did.”
She added her husband, Dale, showed steers when he was younger and this was an experience he could share with his children.
“As they’ve grown they wanted to know more and more about it,” Ann said. “Now they understand the work that goes into getting blue ribbons. We are very blessed and our family appreciates the Fair Board, our community of volunteers, business sponsors, and everyone involved who help support the Fair, allowing our kids to have this opportunity.”
Another pair of hog show veterans, Grace and Evie Bryson, Labadie, also took home respectable awards at the 2019 show.
For the second year in a row, Evie was awarded the reserve champion title and also took home the showmanship award in the junior division.
Not to be outdone, her older sister, Grace, 16, who showed the 2017 market hog grand champion in her first year showing, took home the senior showmanship award this year and won her class in the hog show.
The Brysons and the Loesings are all members of the same Washington Eager Beavers 4-H Club.
For the second year in a row, the livestock judge at the Fair was Phillip Martin, a teacher and FFA adviser at Meadville High School.
At the outset of the market hog show, Martin said he was honored to be selected to judge at a fair of this caliber.
“We learn some things about ourselves when we raise livestock,” Martin said. “This is about producing products that are outstanding and an important part of agriculture. Every parent of young children should look into pursuing this.”
When judging the best of the best 17 hogs from all classes to select a grand and reserve champion, Martin said the hard work of the young people showing them was evident.
“As you can see the hogs are calmer and the handlers are in control,” Martin said. “This is the result of hours spent with their hogs.”
During the show, Martin also urged the Fair committee to consider bumping up the weight range for the market hog show from 300 currently to 320 for next year.
He explained this would allow more hogs to be entered and hogs that are judged would be fresher and not restricted to a diet to make weight just before the competition.
His comment was greeted with applause from the spectators in the arena.
In all, 195 market hogs were judged in 17 separate classes Thursday, ranging in weight from 250 to 300 pounds. In all, 185 blue ribbons were awarded and 10 red ribbons as well.
Last year, 188 market and open class hogs were shown in 14 classes at the Fair, ranging in weight from 250 to 311 pounds.
In 2017, there were 161 blue ribbon hogs shown in 14 different weight classes, ranging from 240 to 300 pounds.
Winners and the weights of their hogs in each class were:
• Class 1 -— Caroline Heimos, 261, Washington Eager Beavers;
• Class 2 — Abby Seitter, 262, New Haven 4-H;
• Class 3 — Grant Schatz, 266, Go Hog Wild 4-H;
• Class 4 — Kamdyn Heather, 272, New Haven 4-H;
• Class 5 — Samuel Busch, 274, 4 Ever Clever 4-H;
• Class 6 — Evie Bryson, 277, Washington Eager Beavers;
• Class 7 — Dylan See, 278, New Haven 4-H;
• Class 8 — Christine Gerling, 279, New Haven 4-H;
• Class 9 — Lucas Seitter, 281, New Haven 4-H;
• Class 10 — Grace Bryson, 282, Washington Eager Beavers;
• Class 11 — Addison Struckhoff, 284, Krakow 4-H;
• Class 12 — Cecelia Heimos, 285, Washington Eager Beavers;
• Class 13 — Ben Loesing, 287, Washington Eager Beavers;
• Class 14 — Kalyssa Eads, 289, New Haven 4-H;
• Class 15 — Camden Dewert, 291, Washington Eager Beavers;
• Class 16 — McLaine Graham, 293, Go Hog Wild 4-H; and
• Class 17 — Nicole Brinker, 296, Go Hog Wild 4-H.