CENTRAL POINT — After feeding her beloved pig a rare treat of Twinkies, vanilla wafers and Gatorade Monday morning to fatten him up a bit, T'neal Myers helped Peter Pan squeeze into the Jackson County Fair's 4-H Market Swine competition at 230 pounds, the minimum weight required.
Today the 10-year-old will show her pig to the judges, who will determine Peter Pan's worthiness as a meat animal. On Wednesday, she'll put him through his paces in swine showmanship. Then that night, Peter Pan will be auctioned to the highest bidder.
Showing and auctioning 4-H and Future Farmers of America animals is one of the mainstays of the annual fair, which runs today through Sunday at the Jackson County Fairgrounds and Exposition Park in Central Point.
T'neal admitted she expects to feel some separation anxiety over Peter Pan, whom she raised as a piglet back in March. This is her first year in Butte Falls 4-H.
"She's been really good at raising the pig," said her mom, Breanna Myers. "She helped her sister last year, but this is her first pig on her own."
T'neal is among some 500 youths who are participating in one of the largest youth auctions in the country, showcasing animals such as pigs, chickens, steers and goats.
T'neal decided to take after her sister, Taylor, 13, who also competes in swine, but found she developed a special attachment to Peter Pan.
She babied her piglet, making sure he was fed after the other pigs on the ranch bullied him and kept him away from food. She also spent extra time nurturing him when he caught pinkeye, a livestock eye infection.
"I stayed with him every day when he was sick," she said.
Breanna Myers said the pigs are fed nutritious food that totals nearly $400 by fair time, so the girls' goal is to recoup their costs at the youth auction.
Taylor is an old hand at pig raising, having frequented the fair for several years.
"I've learned to take in a lot of responsibility and how to manage money," Taylor said. "I've learned not to be attached."
Breanna Myers helps her children and other 4-Hers learn to overcome difficulties and care for the animals they eat. She wants kids to understand the purpose of raising animals for food.
"You know what food is going into the animals, so they're healthy," she said.
Despite her anticipated loss of Peter Pan, T'neal will return to the fair next year. "It's sad," she said, but added, "I plan on doing this again."
T'neal's competition isn't the only first at the fair. Dave Koellermeier is in his inaugural year as fair director.
The former operations manager of the Oregon State Fair said he plans to walk around, observe and take notes to see about potential improvements.
"This is a very well-run fair to begin with," he said. "That was part of the intrigue of taking this position."
Koellermeier said he sees opportunities for enhancing offerings such as the amphitheater, science, technology, artisan cheeses, microbrews and wine.
"It strikes me that this is a great place to showcase," he said.
Koellermeier said he's pleased with this year's entertainment, including the Charter KidsZone, the exhibits in the Padgham Pavilion and the headline performers.
"I think we've got a concert lineup hitting a lot of age groups," he said. "It's a delightful family event."
Raised on a family farm in the Willamette Valley that dates back to 1879, Koellermeier said he's a "farm boy at heart" and especially impressed with the community support of the youth livestock auction.
"We already have the best," said Koellermeier of the Jackson County Fairgrounds and Exposition Park. "The opportunity here is to make it better."
Vera Westbrook is a reporting intern for the Mail Tribune. E-mail her at email@example.com.