Due to a scheduling conflict, pig wrestling is not on the agenda for the 65th Annual Teton County Fair.
In a case of over-scheduled swine, the animals that typically star in the mud-filled spectacle are under contract for a different venue when the fair comes to Jackson, meaning valley locals won’t be able to wrestle this year.
“It was disappointing, and I know it’s a giant bummer for the community,” said fair and fairgrounds manager Rachel Grimes.
For many, the summer fair is synonymous with pig wrestling, the chaotic mastering of a hog by elaborately-dressed teams of exuberant locals.
The objective is simple: put a pig tail-end-first into a barrel. But the costumes, camaraderie and commotion have transformed the sport into something special. Needless to say, when you get into a mud pit with a rambunctious swine, memories are sure to be made.
The fair planners didn’t formally announce the pigs’ absence this year, and said lineups change from season to season. But Grimes also said pig wrestling has been a Teton County staple for the past 30 years.
During those decades, the pigs have always been provided by The Double D Livestock Company in Greybull, Wyoming, which also oversees the event. Other news outlets have called the husband and wife duo behind Double D, Ron and Donna Dalin, “the undisputed champions of greased pig wrestling in Wyoming.”
Donna Dalin and her husband have been as busy as their pigs this summer. She said the Teton County fair wanted to change their dates this year after she had already “locked everything up.”
“When they want to start messing around the dates, our schedule won’t allow it,” she said. “I don’t know how else to be fair.”
Each summer, the pigs are fully booked for fairs across Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
Teton County Fair Board member Matt Hall said they didn’t change the dates of this year’s fair, though they were considering the week prior. The fair typically falls in the last week of July.
Board members said they were disappointed the pigs had to be cut, but budget constraints also contributed to the concession.
“Unfortunately the circumstances were difficult,” Hall said. “Cutting ninja was easier because it’s expensive and doesn’t sell enough.”
The organizers aren’t advertising a smaller fair this year, but popular events like the petting zoo and more recent add-ins like the Xtreme Ninja Challenge were slashed from the lineup. All nighttime events have been moved inside the rodeo arena.
When asked what would replace pig wrestling, Grimes pointed to Thursday night bingo.
“I mean there’s nothing like pig wrestling,” she said.
Thursday will still have a bit of western flair though, thanks to the return of team branding, an event where three cowboys rope a steer and one dismounts to brand the animal’s hide. There will also be a chance for teens to show off their animal husbandry skills at the 4-H livestock sale.
“I’m really disappointed because pig wrestling is something everyone from the community participates in,” Hall said.
With extravagant costumes and team names like “Don’t Go Bacon My Heart,” four-person units have gotten down and dirty for muddy glory in Teton County for decades.
Traditionally, teams have had just 60 seconds to get the pig into the barrel and compete for the fastest time and other awards like “best dressed.” Jackson Hole Fire/EMS has used fire hoses to clean competitors after their stint in the ring.
Animal rights groups have long admonished the wrestling tradition, which they say “torments” pigs, but organizers said their advocacy had nothing to do with the decision to nix this year’s event.
“It’s nothing terrible for the pigs, it’s just life,” Hall said.
Lifelong Jacksonite and fair board member Zach Vosika grew up wrestling pigs at the fair every summer, even winning the event a few years. He and other organizers said they’re hopeful the pigs will be back in the fairgrounds mud next year.
Teton County, Idaho, will still have pig wrestling at its fair Aug. 2.