The Dodge County Fairgrounds’ dirt track is home to sprint car and motorcycle racing, but the annual Dodge County Fair brings a different breed of competition that doesn’t involve vehicles engineered by savvy minds.
Rather, on South Fairview Road, bleachers fill with fans looking to witness swine dig their toes into the dirt and in bumbling style trot all the way to the checkered flag. An Oreo cookie and failure are separated by the length of a snout.
Matt Schoebel is the race announcer for the Swine Time Pig Racing on the Dodge County Fairgrounds and said it’s still fun to announce after 24 seasons. When it’s race time, it’s not hard to find the red track with checkered flags and Schoebel’s pig-pun commentary.
Schoebel and his family are from Germania and have been racing pigs for 25 years at various fairs across the Midwest.
Schoebel said his first fair pig racing was in 1991 and he didn’t become a staple at the Dodge County Fair until around 2008.
“We stay in the Midwest and we do about seven or eight fairs a year,” he said.
Unlike other people who stay in the fair circuit all year, Schoebel doesn’t travel south when the weather cools down. Because his family chooses to stay in the Midwest, in the offseason Schoebel tends to the family’s other farm animals until summer arrives.
According to him, his family bought the red pig-racing track from another pig racer named Larry who resided in Sauk City.
“He was either the second or the third guy in the country racing pigs back in the mid ‘80s,” Schoebel said.
He said he can’t remember how long Larry was racing, but Schoebel is still using the same metal fences, hinges and doors that Larry used years ago. For the most part, the track has held up.
“It has changed a little bit over the years,” he said. “The colors change, but all-in-all [the] panels are the same.”
As for the pigs, they are all his.
Pig racing fans don’t pack the stands in the same way fans pack the Daytona International Speedway or Silverstone does, but those famous tracks lack the myriad of pig related puns.
Some of the pig names Schoebel uses at the Dodge County Fairground includes Kermit the Hog, Arnold Schwarzen-hogger, Hillary Rod-ham Clinton, Sponge-hog Square-Ham, Ham Solo, Jabba the Hog and Miss Piggy.
Before the pigs are let loose to scramble around the track, Schoebel works the crowd and assigns names for each pig in the lineup. He said he cycles through pig names depending on the season or fair.
“We’re coming into our ‘pig-litical’ season now so we’ll have a lot of new candidates,” he said.
The first pig to awkwardly gallop across the finish line is rewarded with an Oreo cookie.
“I guess everybody craves Oreos, but the pigs definitely like them,” he said. “They have a sweet tooth just like everybody else.”
However, Schoebel claims the pigs would race each other for almost any treat.
“They are very competitive animals anyway so it doesn’t necessarily matter what you put out there,” he said.
Swing Time Pig Racing is located near the commercial tents on South Fairview Road. The races start everyday at 2 p.m. and there is a new race every two hours.