This story originally appeared Jan. 27, 2002:
The one little piggy that didn't make it to market this year belonged to 8-year-old Julianna Ballard, who lives in the East Manatee neighborhood of Magnolia Manor.
Julianna, a 4-H Club member and Bashaw Elementary School student, had raised "Miss Piggy" from a 37-pound piglet to a 270-pound porker in time for the Manatee County Fair, which wrapped up Saturday. Unfortunately, less than a quarter mile from where she had been raised, Miss Piggy leaped over the gate of a horse trailer that was hauling her to the fair.
Deelayna Walker, Julianna's mom, was driving Miss Piggy to the fair swine auction, along with a second pig raised by Julianna's 10-year-old brother, Jerid.
"We had just turned out on State Road 64 when a guy stopped me at the caution light and told me a pig had jumped out the back of the horse trailer," Deelayna said.
What Julianna, Jerid and Deelayna found sickened them. Miss Piggy had broken her back in the leap from the truck and had to be put down by Julianna's stepfather, Alan Walker.
"It really shook her up. Luckily, Julianna is a pretty strong girl, and the next day she was OK," said neighbor Jack Helm.
Julianna and the 105 youngsters who auctioned swine at the county fair this year know what's in store for the animals. The hogs will be auctioned, slaughtered and butchered into hams, shoulders, pork chops and more. The porkers won't be coming home anymore.
It's a life lesson. The kids learn responsibility, the value of hard work and the origin of food. In return, they hope generous bidders at the fair will pay handsomely, money that will go into funds for college in a few years.
Jerid gallantly offered to let his little sister show his pig at the swine sale.
But Julianna declined and instead helped Jerid throughout fair week.
"It was hard on her for the week. But she finished out her fair duties," said Deelayna.
Talk about life lessons: That was a hard one. But Julianna also learned people can be incredibly kind and considerate.
Alan's bosses, Dave Rohr and Mike Smiley of S & R Construction, were so moved by Julianna's experience they pledged to pay her the same price for Miss Piggy that Jerid's hog fetched at auction.
That worked out to $3.50 a pound or $892 for Julianna's college fund.
Julianna hopes some day to be a doctor and she understands she needs to keep building her college fund.
When the 2003 county fair rolls around, I would look for her to be right in the thick of things, down at the swine sale.