Even among the other baby hogs, one stood out.
Travis Wallen remembers noticing the black-and-white swine when it was only 5 weeks old on his family’s Trafalgar-area farm. The animal was already much larger than the others in the brood — good bone structure and hefty weight.
The swine had the opportunity to be something special, Wallen said.
The 15-year-old’s gut feeling came to fruition Sunday, when he and his market barrow were named grand champion at the Indiana State Fair. Combining the animal’s solid frame with hours of training and preparation, Wallen was able to claim the best hog in the state.
“He was really massive — big-boned and thick. He was really pretty, and he could walk it,” he said.
Wallen was camped out in the cattle barn on Monday morning, helping a friend prepare and show his own animals. Having the time to relax a little bit and enjoy the fair was relaxing, particularly with the excitement of his victory the previous night still fresh.
While Wallen had earned grand champion at county fairs, this particular barrow combined size and form with the temperament that impressed the judges.
“It was thrilling, such an honor to be named grand champion. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to get to that level,” he said. “I’ve had many grand champions at other county levels, but there’s nothing like winning the state fair.”
Wallen is a seven-year member of 4-H, having shown sheep, beef and swine at the county fair throughout his life. His family raises a variety of animals, including 20 ewes and 15 cows, on their farm.
He would walk his champion barrow in the morning, and feed the animal twice each day. To be sure he looked his best before competition, Wallen would condition its hair giving the barrow a clean, soft coat.
Hours of preparation went into his animal, which made Wallen savor the state fair victory that much more.
“Everything I’ve done to get to this point, I’d do again any day. But it feels really good to be recognized as the state grand champion,” he said.
With a state grand champion title to its name, Wallen’s barrow will fetch a considerable price at auction. The Indian Creek High School sophomore doesn’t know how much he might get for the animal and isn’t really thinking about that right now.
Wallen has three more years of showing animals, and while he realizes matching or topping this year’s achievement will be difficult, he’s excited to see what the final phase of his 4-H career will entail.
“Showing livestock has taught me a lot of life lessons about hard work. Plus, I’ve made a lot of friends and I get to be with family showing animals this way,” he said.