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9th Annual Wine n Swine at National Western

by Tony Bruguiere
Fort Collins, Colo.
Tony BruguiereSome of the hogs like this one that has been in the trailer during the trip from Kansas, are eager to get off and stretch their legs.
Tony Bruguiere, Rodeo Pixels |
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The transformation of the stadium level of the Hall of Education was almost complete. The pens for the Lamas and Alpacas were gone and in their place were hundreds of empty stalls waiting for the Swine. The empty area was eerily quiet as a few of Denver’s finest kept the small but enthusiastic crowd behind the yellow tape.

Then the doors from the Exhibit Hall opened and down the stairs came volunteers from the livestock crew dressed in tuxes and ball gowns. Led by three members carrying a sign that read “9th Annual Wine N’ Swine,” they waved enthusiastically to the crowd and paraded to the other end of the hall where cheese, crackers, and non-alcoholic bubbly awaited them. The honor of leading the parade through the Exhibit Hall and down to the Stadium Hall goes to members of the original “Wine N’ Swine.” This year, the parade was lead by Tom Acre, Pam Acre, and Anni Bengtson, all 15-year volunteers at the National Western Stock Show.

Although the names of the of the originators of the ‘Wine N’ Swine’ seems a little murky, Pam Acre, a 15-year livestock volunteer, describes the beginning of the tradition as, “It all got started between two volunteers making a bet between each other when one said, ‘I bet you wouldn’t wear a ball gown to move in pigs,’ and the other said, ‘I will, if you will wear a tux.’ That’s how it all got started.” Pam went on to say, “We just turned it into a tradition and a fun event because it’s a lot of hard work and it’s just something fun to do.”

As they toasted the crowd, their fellow workers, and wished themselves a fast and fun unloading of the trailers waiting outside, work began in earnest to put the finishing touches on the waiting pens.

Captain of the Livestock Team, Tom Acre, outlined the job ahead for the volunteers, “We will have over 400 hogs to move in and try to do it within a six-hour time frame. We will have 12 trailers unloading at any one time. One year we unloaded 600 hogs.” The pen allocation is on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, so trailers had been lining up since the night before. The four big doors at the end of the arena opened and the first two hogs entered the hall. With their arrival, the night’s work, which would hopefully end around Midnight, began.

Moving hogs around is a task filled with a certain amount of uncertainty. Tom Acre, described the process as, “kind of like herding cats”. The handlers and live stock volunteers never knew exactly how the animals would react in the new and strange surroundings. Some hogs bolted into the Hall as if they were glad to be out of the trailers, while others balked and screamed their displeasure. Those that were reluctant to leave the security of the trailer were pushed, pulled, and virtually carried out.

Once in the Hall, some animals moved to their pens with no more than an occasional direction tap with a hog sorting pole. Other hogs took off on their own and had to be directed by volunteers with sorting panels. During the move, there was always someone nearby with a sorting panel. The sorting panels are best described as ‘moving walls’. A hog will run right through a person that is between him and where he wants to go, but sees the sorting panel as a ‘wall’.

The Livestock Team moved over 450 hogs off of trailers and into pens. Still having fun, but tired, the crew finished the job ahead of schedule at 11:00 p.m. A long evening but a job ‘Well Done’.


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