Shenandoah County Fair: Watch the pigs race, get educated at same time

By Katie Demeria

WOODSTOCK — Racers in the Old McNally’s Pig Derby are named after famous horses. For example, Hambiscuit, rather than Seabiscuit. California “Porkchop,” instead of “Chrome,” finished first in the race Tuesday.

Spametariot and Swine o’ War, though, were distracted and stopped halfway through.

Announcer Cindy McNally told the spectators it looked like “they pulled hamstrings.”

Kim Olinger, 57, of New Market, watched the derby Tuesday with her father Wilmer Olinger, 80. Both are longtime fairgoers – 50 and 75 years respectively, but this is the first time they’ve watched Cindy and Steve McNally’s pig derby.

From Rocky Point, North Carolina, the McNallys started their pig derby business five years ago. They spent the first three years working only at their local fair, the Cape Fear Fair and Expo, then toured other North Carolina fairs last year. This year they made the leap to Virginia.

“It’s going great,” Cindy McNally said. “It’s like any new business — you do better as you learn more. Eventually we want to do this as a living.”

The derby is made up of five races — including pigs, goats and ducks. Cindy McNally, a teacher for many years, encourages spectators to cheer the animals on, while also educating them about some of the rare breeds that are racing.

Some of the smaller pigs are American Guinea Hogs, a threatened breed. Cindy McNally described them as smaller hogs for family farms.

The goats, which were wearing colors to represent rival colleges, are also threatened, according to Cindy McNally.

“As a kid, you always learn about tigers and how they’re endangered and people are trying to save them,” she said. “I wanted to be able to contribute something somehow. I started learning about these rare breeds, some that are almost extinct.”

At the end of the program she shows the spectators a pot-bellied piglet, describing what good pets they make and allowing those interested to come up and ask questions.

Rebekah Postupak, of Strasburg, and her kids, Natalya, 9, and Joshua, 4, went up and spoke to Cindy McNally about her pigs.

Natalya has participated in the fair’s pig scramble the past two years.

“Oh yes, it was so fun, I love watching the animals race,” Natalya said when asked what she liked about the derby.

Joshua was eager to talk about what he enjoyed about it. He said he liked “the one with the pigs,” and how the ducks stopped and went, “peck, peck, peck.”

Cindy McNally said they have loved their time at the fair. “It’s like being on vacation.”

The derby will run Saturday at 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., and 9:30 p.m.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com