SKOWHEGAN — About two dozen small pink piglets squealed and snorted as they were lifted one by one from their pens in the swine barn to the barn show ring Saturday at the Skowhegan State Fair.

“Are you ready?” Steve Frederick, the fair’s livestock supervisor, asked a group of 10 children nervously wringing their hands inside the ring.

On the count of three the children went running after the pigs, falling on the fresh wood shavings as they chased the pigs around the ring in hopes of catching one.

It was the final day of the 197th Skowhegan State Fair and despite a rainy deluge on Friday, the sun was shining and about 350 people had gathered around the barn show ring for the pig scramble.

The event is one of the most popular at the fair and has been going on for about 20 years, according to Frederick.

“I think it’s fun and the kids really enjoy it,” said Terri Clark, 44, of Skowhegan, as she watched the scramble. Clark has seven sons and said that over the years they have taken home several pigs from the fair’s pig scramble.

Children ages 6 to 11 can enter free. If they catch a pig, they can either keep it or try to sell it to a nearby farmer or pig enthusiast. Those who don’t catch a pig get a conciliatory $5.

Getting into the scramble is competitive, as there are often more children who sign up for the event then there are spots to compete. About 100,000 people attended the fair over its 10-day run. There were 30 pigs to be given away and twice as many children competing.

“We come every year, but the kids have never been picked (for the pig scramble),” said Brian Buzzell, of Levant. He said he ended up buying a pig for his two daughters because they wanted one so badly.

Others who do get into the scramble and are lucky enough to catch a pig don’t always end up keeping it.

Kaytlinn Falk, of Clinton, caught a pig; but it peed on her as she held its hind legs while waiting to put it in a burlap bag. She decided to sell it for $50.

“It went to the bathroom. That’s the first time that’s happened,” said Falk, 9. She said she also caught a pig a few years ago and that she planned to spend the $50 on bracelets and school supplies.

“I jumped on it and then I grabbed the legs,” she said, explaining her key to success.

Other winners also had their secrets to catching a pig, whether it was a tactic for how to grab the pig or good old-fashioned competitiveness.

Zachary Gilbert, 8, of Hope, said the key was to grab the pig by one of its ankles and then pick it up in the air.

“You have to wait for it to come over, then put it in a headlock,” said 8-year-old Brandon Parlin, of Avon.

Meanwhile Drake Dumont, 7, said he was able to catch a pig by jumping on one after another competitor let go of it.

“He kind of let it go, so I grabbed on and put it in the bag,” said Dumont, of Albion, as he proudly showed off his new pet, tied to a leash, after the event.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Nathaniel Foss, of Athens, a farmer who has worked at the pig scramble for about the last 10 years. He also met his wife at the Skowhegan State Fair and they celebrated their anniversary there this year.

“The pig scramble is one of the best things at the fair,” said Foss, 28. “It’s fun to set up and to see the kids get all excited. It’s one of the better events.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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