With a bright-green bandanna tied around her collar and a bedazzled belt looped through her pants, Emma New stood in one of the holding pens of the Middletown Valley Bank Arena waiting to show off one of her most prized possessions.
The gate of the pen opened, and New, along with about 10 other children and teens, entered the dirt ring guiding their pigs.
It was the 4-H Swine Market Show, one of the many 4-H animal shows at The Great Frederick Fair. New, 16, would be showing three pigs that day — one in the lightweight barrow class, another in the heavyweight class and a third in the “bred and owned” class.
New has been a 4-H member since she was 8 and was calm in the ring. She constantly kept her eye on the judge to make sure he could see all angles of her pig, which is a big requirement in swine showing.
“I just try to stay calm and collected when I go into the ring because you and your animal are a team, you guys work together, and if your pig knows that there’s something wrong, then they can act on that,” she said.
New ended up placing fourth in the lightweight barrow class, but said she wasn’t upset. She still had two more pigs to show, including Bob Ross, the pig that she has bred and trained herself.
Her optimism paid off. New placed third in her heavyweight class, and Bob Ross pulled through with second place during the “bred and owned” competition.
“Even though I didn’t get first ... it’s a really nice accomplishment. ... I didn’t think he would do that well,” New said. “These pigs are from our farm and we raised them, and they went up against all these other people’s pigs that they might have bought.
“It just makes you feel real good.”
New joined the Johnsville 4-H club after learning about it from a friend. The Walkersville High School student helped her family raise Texas longhorn cattle but had never considered getting into showing.
The friend that introduced her to the club showed pigs herself and persuaded New to try it.
“After my first year I loved doing it, even though I didn’t do well,” New said with a chuckle.
One thing was for certain though after the first year: She knew she wanted to keep showing pigs.
“For pigs, they each have a different personality. It’s kind of weird to say this, but to me, like, they’re dogs. They’re very obedient and they’re very smart animals,” New said. “Throughout the whole year, you have this bond with [them]. ... It’s fun to be able to have your own animals and take care of them and show them.”
Eight years after her first show, she is breeding her own pigs and knows exactly what to do when she enters the ring.
“I wasn’t really as good as I am now, but it was cool to start at the bottom and work your way up to the top because it shows how much you can improve,” New said.
She also has what she calls a turkey project. She buys turkeys to raise with the hope of auctioning them off at the fair.
“It’s my first year doing it, and it’s just a good learning experience to have, and I always have next year,” she said.
In addition to competing in the Swine Market Show, New also participated in the 4-H Swine Showmanship Show, and plans on participating in the Swine Open Show on Saturday.
Joining 4-H was one of the best decisions she’s ever made, New said, and it even got her two younger siblings involved. They both also showed pigs at the fair.
“4-H is probably one of the best experiences you’ll ever have ... it’s something you can be proud of yourself for doing,” New said.