“I’d do almost anything for 4-H,” asserted Delaware Farm Bureau Executive Director Joseph Poppiti, who now finds himself heading the list of 19 volunteer fund raisers who are willing to kiss a pig at the Delaware State Fair, should they raise the most money for the scholarship program.
The event was initially started in 1993 and coordinated by the Harrington Business Association, explained Doug Crouse, state 4-H program leader, who has been involved with the contest from the beginning.
The purpose was to recognize youth exhibitors at the Delaware State Fair.
That first year, Crouse said, “we raised enough monies to support one $500 scholarship. We have raised as much as $10,000.
“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.”
Three years ago, the Delaware 4-H Foundation took over coordination of the contest. Crouse remains chairperson under the new group.
He said, “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.”
Crouse also solicits business sponsorships each year to cover any expenses from the event. Anything left over from sponsorships are added to the scholarship dollars awarded.
The event is held each year on the free entertainment stage at the Delaware State Fair on the second Thursday of the fair, at 3 p.m. This year’s event will be held July 25.
Crouse said all the participants come to be interviewed and participate in fun activities on stage as part of the event. The event is well attended each year by those who come to support their candidate as well as the general audience who look forward to the event each year.
Earlier in the day, Crouse said, “we hold a reception for the participants and provide them drink and dessert. This is a requirement by the pig — candidates must be sweetened up in order for the pig to agree to kiss them!”
At the event, the individual who raises the most money gets to kiss the pig. Crouse said, “If we have corporate participants, we also have the top corporate participant kiss the pig. In addition, in order to not just let anyone not get involved, we started having the person who raises the least amount of money also have to kiss the pig. Finally, based on their interviews and actions up on stage, we also have the audience’s favorite, chosen by applause, kiss the pig.”
Last year’s winner of the honor was Tammy Schirmer, Sussex County 4-H Administrative Assistant, who raised $2,700.
Schirmer said, “I was thrilled to kiss the pig at the state fair last year. I set a goal of $3,000 and I was overwhelmed by the response I received. Collecting so much means a great deal, as the funds went directly to college scholarships for Junior Exhibitors at the fair. One scholarship was awarded to our Sussex County youth. Supporting the program here at the University of Delaware, I have to pleasure of watching youth come out of their shell and blossom. 4-H is a wonderful program for our youth! I am so heartened to see other people share and realize this as well.
So, yes, this year I set a higher goal and for 4-H this year I will be glad to once again pucker up for a pig!”
Contest participants this year include: Joseph Poppiti, executive director of Delaware Farm Bureau; Chad Robinson, 150th City of Harrington Anniversary chairperson; Robert Brode, chief of Harrington Fire Company; Richie Smith, Farmington Mayor and deputy chief of Farmington Fire Company; Kelly Willey of Shore United Bank; Corporal Brad Reed and Corporal Shawn Jacobs of Harrington Police Department; Corporal 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; and Jim Eastman of Harrington Senior Center. Last to enter the race are Donna and Jackie King of King Crop Insurance.