This little piggy…

Preble County Pork Festival spotlights local rural community

By Katie Christoff

Photo: The Preble County Pork Festival takes place Sept. 19-20 at the Preble County Fairgrounds; photo: Kimberly Nichole Photography

County festivals are a popular and effective way to bring communities together, especially in Dayton and surrounding communities. If they revolve around a theme, they can be incredibly successful.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Preble County Pork Festival remains a longstanding tradition in the region—who doesn’t love playing with adorable little pigs (all while eating delicious pork)?

This festival is special to Preble County residents because it’s something they grow up with, and it’s something that gives Dayton-dwellers an excuse to visit the city’s more rural neighbor.

“It was established as a way to make a connection between the farm community and the urban population,” says Jade Guthrie, marketing committee member and social media chair of this year’s festival. “What was happening when Preble County saw a larger urban population move in, it was uncommon at that time. [We have] a very large farm community, and it still is—we have a very strong agriculture base.”

Guthrie says this festival serves as a great introduction to Preble County’s farming lifestyle.

“This festival is a great way to connect on the farm aspect and allow more urban populations like Dayton and Cincinnati to come and see farming at Preble County in a way that’s comfortable to them,” she says. “The food and craft vendors provide a great way for them to visualize and experience that.”

Speaking of food and craft vendors, this festival’s got plenty to offer. Guthrie says this year’s festival will host over 500 arts and crafts vendors throughout the fairgrounds. She also named a variety of food vendors, including a breakfast stand, a country store selling fresh meat, a smorgasbord buffet and a restaurant with sit-down ambience serving sandwiches.

“The food vendors are a huge attraction themselves,” Guthrie says. “It’s huge—it’s a great thing because people can shop, eat, see things like pig races, go to a petting zoo—there’s something here for everyone.”

Yes, you read that right—pig racing is one of the main attractions at the Preble County Pork Festival each year. As long as you’re not a guilty meat-eater, you can have your pigs and eat them too.

“Both kids and parents love it,” Guthrie says of the races.

Though pig races seem hard to top, the biggest attraction at the festival is a parade through Eaton, taking place this year Saturday, Sept. 19 at 10:30 a.m. Guthrie says the parade has a grand marshal, schools in the county bring their marching bands, people bring floats and kids pass out candy.

“It’s a great way for local organizations to have a presence,” she says. “It’s a great way to get the community involved, as well.”

Another popular attraction is the entertainment tent, which features a lineup of local performers.

Though the festival is deeply rooted in tradition, committee members are trying to keep it relevant with changing times. This year, the festival partnered with the Preble County Visual Art Center to decorate 10 life-sized pigs to be displayed throughout the city.

Guthrie has led a social media campaign encouraging residents to take selfies with the pigs they meet on the town, post them to Facebook and tag the festival. These cement pigs will all be moved to the festival, and then the works of “swine art” will be auctioned off.

The festival is a nonprofit and run entirely by volunteers, according to Guthrie.

“All of our funds that we generate from the smorgasbord and country store are given back to the community,” she says. “They’re given back for fairgrounds improvement, they built our expo building and even give local scholarships.”

So festival-goers can enjoy their weekend while knowing it’s for a good cause. The festival does a great deal of good for Preble County by raising money and bringing attention to Dayton’s smaller, rural neighbor. Guthrie loves the fact that this festival shows so many people the good qualities of her hometown for a weekend.

“For me, I’ve not only grown up in Preble County but I’ve grown up on a farm—I’ve always had friends from the city come to see the farm, and its kind of a shock,” she says. “What’s really cool for me to see people from the city that can see this farm aspect of the community, without a ton of farm influence where people feel uncomfortable. It’s a really cool thing for people to see our farm community in action. They can stop at craft vendors, eat food—it’s a great way to experience the farm community without overwhelming them.”

So this weekend, venture to the farm community of Preble County to eat, drink, be merry… and play with little pigs.

The Preble County Pork Festival will take place Sept. 19 and 20 at the Preble County Fairgrounds, 722 S. Franklin St. in Eaton. Admission and parking are free. For a full schedule of events or more information, please visit porkfestival.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Christoff at KatieChristoff@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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