AUXVASSE, Mo. - Theodore Roosevelt's famous foreign policy to "speak softly and carry a big stick" might not be the motto for Callaway County youth. For those in the swine show today at the Callaway Youth Expo, it's the opposite - speak loudly and carry a small stick.
Youth ages 8 to 21 arrived with their pigs in Auxvasse on Wednesday to check in and weigh their swine. The swine show starts at 7 p.m. today at the Auxvasse Lions Club Park behind Auxvasse Elementary School.
Among the crowd were young, small-framed children ushering around hogs up to 300 pounds for weigh in, some using nothing but quick steps and loud voices while others had the aid of "whips" (a thin stick used to tap the pig to help direct it the proper path).
"I know they're more afraid of me than I am of them, so I get in front of them and make then turn away," Trace Helsel, 10, a South Callaway student, said about corralling his pigs - which each weighed more than 250 pounds.
David Reid, swine show superintendent, said most pigs in the show would weigh between 200 and 300 pounds.
There are more than 70 pigs entered in today's swine show - doubling last year's participation, according to Reid.
The pigs will be judged on appearance.
"It's kind of like a pageant - they're looking for the best-looking pig," said Alyssa Reid, David's daughter.
Alyssa, from New Bloomfield, is also showing hogs. She said the judges usually look for low-setting pigs with a lot of width in the mid-section, heavy shoulders and a thick rear ham section. Alyssa noted the thick mid-section is not about fat, but a healthy pig physique.
There's also a competition for showmanship - who can usher their swine around the arena with the most grace and ease. For that, it's all about practice.
"If you really want to get into showing, you start the pigs out when they're young," David Reid said.
Pigs in today's show had to be born on or after Jan. 1, unless they are for breeding then born on or after Dec. 1, 2013. He said walking them regularly prepares them for the rigor of travel, weigh in and the walk through the arena.
"They become tame," David Reid said.
Chania Hoffman, 17, and Belle Hoffman, 11, both in the North Callaway School District, said they spend 10-12 hours per week walking, grooming, feeding and generally caring for their five pigs they're showing.
"Just make sure you spend a lot of time with them," Chania said was their secret to success.
They walk each pig individually multiple times per week.
Trace, who's showing swine for his second year, said that while pigs take a lot of work he likes them better.
"They're easier to control and they don't run away as easy as sheep," said Trace, last year's grand champion for market lamb.
Some said they enjoyed several aspects of the swine show.
"The competition is fun, meeting the people ... the pigs are interesting - they all have their own personality," Bailey Kemp, 17, a North Callaway student, said about why she likes showing swine.
Kemp, who has shown swine for more than seven years, echoed others' comments on practice makes the perfect pig.
"A lot of it is through the summer working with them," she said, noting it means a lot of walking the pigs and getting them used to people.
Some are new to the swine show, others are experienced and enjoy the preparation. And there are some getting ready for the Missouri State Fair, using the Callaway Youth Expo as a trial run.
"There are state fair pigs in here," David Reid said.
While most of the swine show entrants are from Callaway County, he said there are some from surrounding areas like Audrain, Montgomery and Cole counties.