PALMETTO -- Pigs from Missouri are smart.
They are not going to race around a track to the delight of audiences of 200 at the Manatee County Fair just to catch a fake carrot or a furry cloth apple.
No, you need a package of real iced oatmeal cookies to get them to run.
“The pig that gets to the bowl first gets the whole cookie while the rest get the crumbs,” said Missouri-based Show-Me Swine Racers’ pig handler Nathan Tidwell, whose statement could also serve as an observation on life itself.
The 30-minute pig race show, which is scheduled 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m and 8:30 p.m. today and each day throughout the fair right next to the Belle City Amusement midway sign, is just good, old-fashioned family fun, Tidwell said.
The show, which has nary an off-color moment and is perfect for kids of all ages, is free to the public.
“The only reason I’ve been in this so long is that I like to see the kids’ faces during the show,” said Tidwell, who goes by “Pork Chop” and has been a career pig racing man for 20 years.
Tidwell and his partner, James Crew, nicknamed “Hambone,” are all about getting laughs.
Like on Sunday, before the Vietnamese pot belly pigs were scheduled to race, Tidwell and Crew had the audience raise their hands to volunteer family members with their own pot bellies to be official “pot belly pig rooters.”
There were plenty of giggles as the tummy-terrific bods of Robert Witham, Scott Kinney, Matt Arredonbo, Don Callhoun and Kyra Broxon strutted to the front.
Broxon didn’t have a pot belly, but she was determined to be a pig-rooter so the guys let her in.
Arredonbo’s pig won the race, and Arrendonbo won a stuffed toy for his son, Eddie Salazar, 11, who couldn’t stop smiling.
Tidwell and Crew also make the audience laugh when they read off the names of the pigs, some of which are Britney Spareribs, Squally Ray Cyrus, Hamma Montana and Arnold Swartzenpigger.
This coming week promises more old-fashioned family fun at the fair.
Today marks the Martin Luther King Jr. observance, and the midway will be open until 10 p.m.
Troubadour Dennis Lee will be performing all day, said John Neuhauser, fair treasurer.
Also at 6 p.m. today the 17th Annual Cheerleading competition is set for the Mosaic Arena, featuring cheerleaders from all the local high schools.
The 2nd annual Drum Line competition, also featuring local high schools, is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the entertainment tent.
Wednesday is Senior Day, with seniors getting into the fair for $5 all day, Neuhauser said.
The Harry James Orchestra will perform at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Thursday’s highlight is country music talent Craig Campbell at 9 p.m., Neuhauser said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.