Kewaskum teen wants youth with disabilities to know the fun of showing pigs

Gloria Hafemeister
Emily Butzlaff is sharing her love for pigs with others as she spearheads the effort to host Washington County Fair's first "Beyond the Banner" swine show July 28.  The event is intended to provide the opportunity for youth with disabilities to get involved in showing at the fair.

KEWASKUM - Emily Butzlaff is a sophomore at Kewaskum High School and the secretary of the Kewaskum FFA. With help from her dad, Brian, she is organizing Washington County’s first “Beyond the Banner” swine show for youth with disabilities at the Washington County Fair.

She has been showing hogs since she was in third grade and is eager to share the thrill of entering the show ring with other youth.

She shows crossbreds because of their unique coloring and patterns. 

She says, “I like showing pigs because they are friendly and gentle.”

Her family also raises beef but she says it doesn’t take as long to get pigs fit for the show ring.  She walks them every day and they are easier to manage at a crowded fair when walking them to the show ring.

“If a pig gets away at the fair it isn’t as dangerous as if a steer gets away,” she says. 

It’s the same reason she believes pigs are the ideal animal for those with disabilities to show. 

She is the driving force behind the “Beyond the Banner” show July 28 at the Washington County Fair.

The Beyond the Banner show offers youths with an intellectual disability the chance to gain the real-life experience of showing a pig in a fun fair environment. The show is modeled after a similar event held at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Emily says, “A show like this is not only good for the youth who participate in it but it has also been good for the swine exhibitors at our fair who have agreed to get involved and help with it. It brings us together as a group to work on something worthwhile.”

Washington County Fair has about 50 youth swine exhibitors. As experienced exhibitors they will share what they know about show pigs with the participants in this event, serving as mentors and encouraging them.

Beyond the Banner Swine Show

The similar event at State Fair, known as “All for One Swine Show” attracted only seven participants the first year but has grown each year since as word spreads about its benefits to the participants.

At State Fair each child with special needs was paired with a team of mentors and received a crash course in showing pigs. Mentor responsibilities included teaching the All for One participants about basic animal husbandry, how to prepare a pig for show, showmanship skills, basic facts about pigs and having fun.

One of the volunteer showmen at State Fair was Andy Boschert of the Beaver Dam FFA. He and another Dodge County Fair swine exhibitor Kaitlyn Neu are planning a similar show at this year’s Dodge County Fair in August. Some other counties are picking up on the idea as well.

Boschert says, “Right when I heard about the program, I was into it because it was a good idea,” he said. “It gives other kids and myself an opportunity to do something different.”

He and his team of exhibitors were assigned to one of the participants and introduced him to Andy’s pig, washed her and practiced walking her around.  Then they turned the pig over to the young participant to walk her around the ring before the judge.

The whole experience helped build confidence and pride for those participating. It gives youth the ability to develop communication skills as they answer questions about their pig and to participate in a competitive and friendly environment. Those who took part in the event at State Fair were particularly proud to receive a big State Fair ribbon.

Emily says she hopes to replicate that experience in her county by providing those same opportunities for young persons with disability in Washington County. The event is open to young people ages 8 – 18.

The environment will be the pig show barn at the Washington County Fairgrounds and in a dirt floor/shaving show arena.

Emily would like the youth to register in advance so the organizers will be able to order T-shirts and ribbons for participants and to make sure there are plenty of youth mentors available to work one-on-one with the participants.

To register email or call 262-483-7683.