"I thought [Soapy] would really jump over the fence," said Candace
Sundine, 9, of Irvine.
The fact that the crowd of children bought into the so-called
"miracle" is a testament to the persuasive skills of M.C. Marc
Stamper, who abandoned a job in corporate marketing for pig-race
calling, whipped the crowd into such a frenzy that they would have
believed pigs could sing Broadway show tunes if he said so.
The trick he said -- which of course only some of the grown-ups
would be aware of -- is to know who the real Soapy Smith was: an
Alaskan boomtown con man.
The pig races, which
run five times a day, always pack a crowd, Stamper said. "On the
weekends, you have
to get here half an hour
During the races, four Alaskan pigs race against each other. Then,
four non-Alaskan pigs compete. The top two finishers in each race
compete for the honor of fastest pig of the moment. After the 1 p.m.
races Wednesday, that honor went to an Alaskan pig named Kobuk.
No one was happier to see Kobuk prance as only a portly pig can
across the finish line than 11-year-old Nick Price of Irvine -- he
had picked him to win.
"It's great," Nick said. "You can't see pig races anywhere else."
Not even in parts of Alaska, it turns out, said Doris Hale, who
lived in Alaska for 13 years and never saw one pig race. Hale, who
brought her 3-year-old son James to the fair, said they both enjoyed
seeing the races.
"I thought it was a
good workout," Hale said. Stamper "worked the crowd good."
The pig races used to be held in the livestock area at the far end
of the fairgrounds, but were moved this year to an area outside the
centennial farm, much closer to the fair entrance.