Pucker up: Volunteers raise funds for annual pig kissing contest

The annual pig kissing contest, set for Thursday, June 25, raises funds for college scholarships for Junior Exhibitors at the Delaware State Fair.

A young pig will help 19 passionate volunteers raise money for scholarships to be given out during the Delaware State Fair.

Now an annual tradition, the variety show-style, pig kissing contest will be held on Thursday, June 25, also known as Governor’s Day at the fair, in the free entertainment tent.

“All proceeds from this contest will be used to award college scholarships to deserving Junior Exhibitors at this year’s Delaware State Fair,” contest participant and Delaware Farm Bureau’s Executive Director Joseph Poppiti said. “Anytime [Delaware] Farm Bureau can assist in securing scholarship funds for students who are studying an agricultural curriculum is a positive for all Delaware communities. Farm Bureau hopes to keep kids connected to all types of agriculture and its importance to farming families and the food we eat in Delaware. Agriculture is still Delaware’s No. 1 industry.”

Mr. Poppiti said he hopes to raise several hundred dollars toward the scholarships, adding to what Delaware’s 4-H Program Leader Doug Crouse said he hopes turns into at least $5,000 with the help of the other volunteers.

Mr. Poppitit said, “I’d do almost anything for 4-H. The kids in 4-H learn life skills with hands on projects in agriculture, science, health, and community volunteering. We at Delaware Farm Bureau try to assist 4-H in teaching about Delaware agriculture and eating healthy.”

Teaming with activities like the pig kissing contest and supporting Delaware’s youth is something the organization takes pride in through outreach and their own scholarship offerings.

“Delaware Farm Bureau has had a long history of providing college scholarships to students. This year, Delaware Farm Bureau, through its county Farm Bureaus, Women’s Committee and Young Farmers and Ranches donated $13,000 to deserving scholars to continue their education,” Mr. Poppiti said.

A mobile lab also helps the Farm Bureau reach students throughout the year, supporting each stage of their school-aged years in some way.

“Through the Delaware Farm Bureau Foundation’s mobile Ag Lab, we teach elementary school kids about Delaware farmers, crops grown, and animals raised in Delaware, and eating healthy foods. Part of our program is about the five food groups. Students in the 4th grade — our main target audience — are learning about the food groups in their school curriculum. Our demonstration has sample food groups in a lunchbox. The students must open the lunch box and pick out a representative of each food group,” Mr. Poppiti explained.

“The students also follow an exercise in planting, growing and ultimately eating a radish that they plant as a seed. They become farmers. It is a take home project with instructions for their parents; involving the family. We can adjust our Ag Lab program to suit the age group and did just that two weeks ago at the 4-H camp at the University of Delaware on June 25.”

At the request of Betsy Morris, a 4-H Extension Educator for Cooperative Extension, he said, the lab visited the camp, where staff educated and entertained 75 students in the cloverbuds (ages 5-8) and cloverleafs (ages 9-10) groups.

The pig kissing contest is now another way the Farm Bureau and the other 18 volunteers can help those students along their agricultural journeys.

In its 28th year at the fair, the contest was started in 1993 by the Harrington Business Association, according to Mr. Crouse. The Delaware 4-H Foundation eventually took it over with Mr. Crouse still acting as the chairperson of the event.

“We raised enough monies to support one $500 scholarship,” he said of that first year.

The event has raised as much as $10,000 in one year over the course of its successful reign.

“My goal is always in the $5,000 level each year and our participants have done well in meeting this goal. During the past 25 years, we have given out scholarships totaling more than $136,500,” Mr. Crouse added. “Each year I recruit 15 to 20 ‘willing’ participants (or potential pig kissers) to go out to raise monies to support college scholarships for deserving Delaware State Fair Junior Exhibitors. These exhibitors are youth who exhibit in 4-H, FFA, Livestock and in Open Class Departments at the fair. One hundred percent of the monies raised by our participants each year is given back out in scholarships.”

This year’s contestants include: Mr. Poppiti, executive director of Delaware Farm Bureau; Chad Robinson, 150th City of Harrington Anniversary chairperson; Robert Brode, chief of Harrington Fire Co.; Richie Smith, Farmington Mayor and deputy chief of Farmington Fire Company; Kelly Willey of Shore United Bank; Cpl. Brad Reed and Cpl. Shawn Jacobs of Harrington Police Department; Cpl. Juanita Huey-Smith, Delaware State Police Community Outreach Unit and Mounted Patrol Unit; Angie Gooden, Kent County 4-H Livestock Committee; Ashley Gouge of New Castle County 4-H; Christina Gallo, 2019-20 Teacher of the Year, Lake Forest School District; Joseph Menard, Kent County 4-H Leader; McKenzie Ivory and Emily Emerson of Delaware FFA; Paige Davison, Delaware State Fair; Steve Walters of Harrington Raceway & Casino; Jim Eastman of Harrington Senior Center; and Donna and Jackie King of King Crop Insurance.

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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