SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Despite blazing heat, a sizable crowd gathered for this year’s renditions of two of the Illinois State Fair’s most unique events: the hog and husband calling contests.
The first event was the hog calling contest. Entries varied drastically, with some contestants using props and family members in their presentation while others simply displayed their best hog call.
The first competitor Joe Rhodes, from Effingham, used the former of these tactics. Dressed up in blue jean coveralls, a red bandana, a straw hat and carrying a “slop bucket,” Rhodes began by sharing with the audience that this wasn’t his first hog call.
“I lived on a farm where hog calling was a way of life,” he said.
After a hog call that pierced nearly everyone’s ears, Rhodes’ daughter came in the ring dressed in a pink hog suit with stuffed hog in hand and mini stuffed hogs plastered on her clothing below the knees.
Next up was the 16-year veteran and defending champion Chris Karr, from Seymour, who also came out dressed up like a farmer and accompanied by a Harry Potter-themed wagon driven by Professor “Bacon,” an intelligent stuffed pig who was sporting a sharp pair of spectacles.
Karr also incorporated the fair’s theme, “Celebrate and Educate,” into this routine by first educating the audience that 1,650 pigs were at the Illinois State Fair and then celebrating the magic pig’s, Pork Chop “Piggy Potter,” first appearance at the Illinois State Fair.
After unsuccessfully screaming “Piggy, Piggy, Piggy Potter” a number of times, Karr asked the audience “have you seen him?”
“Of course not, he’s a magic pig!” exclaimed Karr.
Finally, after more deliberation, “Piggy Potter,” an aptly dressed stuffed pig – who was sporting a matching wizard hat and outfit - showed himself to the delighted audience.
The third contestant Nathan Broaddus, from Raymond, decided, unlike his predecessors, to focus on the call itself. Broaddus, who worked on Borgic’s hog farm for a year and a half, presented two calls: the loading shoot call and the mating call with a bore. While his calls received the biggest reaction from the audience, it wasn’t because they were outlandish; instead, it was because his calls were by and far the most realistic.
“I used to do them out (on Borgic’s farm),” he said. “And now it is something I do in my spare time.”
Broaddus added that he will most likely return next year.
The last competitor, 4-H volunteer Jacob Rukin, from Lincoln, took none of these routes and instead tried bribing the judges. His efforts, though tempting, ended him in last place.
The winners were as follows:
1st place: Nathan Broaddus
2nd place: Joe Rhodes
3rd place: Chris Karr
4th place: Jacob Rukin
The equally zany husband calling contest followed with four women competing for this year’s Husband Calling champion.
The first competitor, Kelly Tierney, from Cornland, braved the heat by dressing up as Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Springfield and things have changed!” Tierney said. “The girls are hardly wearing anything; earrings are hanging off every part of the body possible and food is now on a stick.”
“Do people use silverware anymore?” she added.
Finally, after many unsuccessful tries, Abraham finally showed up in a Hawaiian t-shirt, blue jean shorts and tennis shoes with a corn dog in hand. Needless to say, Mary Todd Lincoln was surprised.
After the event, Tierney noted this was her fifth year doing the competition, three of which have earned her the first place title. This year’s idea was apparently an epiphany on her husband’s part.
“He just woke up at 2 o’clock in the morning and said ‘Abe Lincoln.’”
The second competitor, Terri Dickson, from Springfield, began by saying she first saw husband calling contests on TV.
“I said ‘I could do that’ because I have a big mouth.”
In between screaming intervals of “Thomas (her husband’s name),” Dickson, well aware of the heat, said “I hope I don’t pass out!”
Finally her husband showed, with two hot dogs and drink in hand.
The third caller, Susan Epich, of Mokena, and possibly the competitor with the loudest and longest calls, had apparently lost her husband, who had just stepped away to get her a refreshment.
“It’s not that far,” she said, “Where is my pop?”
Her husband eventually showed up with that refreshment, a glass of water, in hand only to douse her with it.
The last competitor, Louise Sclafani, of Chicago, begin by yelling “Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, Jeffrey!” Although her husband didn’t initially respond, Sclafani had a back-up plan.
“When that doesn’t work,” Sclafani said, while reaching into her backpack, “I use the cell phone.”
The winners were as follows:
1st place: Kelly Tierney
2nd place: Terri Dickson
3rd place: Susan Epich
4th place: Louise Sclafani
All champions received $100 thanks to Hog Inc. and $50 in premium money. Second place received $30 and third received $15.
DockDogs Leaps into the Hearts of Many at 2007 Illinois State Fair
One of this year’s new attractions that is drawing large crowds at the Illinois State Fair is the popular canine competitive sport, DockDogs. Located in the Gate 2 area of the fairgrounds, DockDogs features a variety of dogs, predominately golden retrievers, who compete to out jump each other.
Spokesperson Brian Sharenow has been a part of DockDogs since 2000, the year the program started hosting sanctioned competitions. The competition consists of a trainer throwing a toy into a 36-foot pool and a dog running and jumping off of a platform, or dock, to retrieve it. To calculate the length of the jump, DockDogs has a specialized computer program that uses a digital image to determine the exact distance.
DockDogs is now a worldwide competition. Events are held not only throughout the United States, but also in Canada and Europe.
Since 2000, there have been two records set, one for indoor and one for outdoor competition. The outdoor record was set by a greyhound named Country with a jump of 28-feet, 11-inches. Canines named Wylie and Gunnerboy hold the indoor record with leaps of 25-feet, 3-inches each.
DockDogs has performances scheduled daily throughout the fair at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. The 10:00 a.m. performance serves as the first round of the competition and is for all dogs entered. The preliminaries take place at 1:00 p.m. and the finals are at 5:00 p.m.