Decker wins state fair junior hog show 25 years after dad

Lisa Depies
Dylan Decker, 11, of Atkinson captured the 2010 Illinois State Fair junior show grand champion barrow title with his crossbred barrow ‘Smalls.’

Friday the 13th is a lucky date for Atkinson’s Dylan Decker.

In his first year of showing hogs at the Illinois State Fair, Dylan captured the junior show grand champion barrow title with his crossbred barrow “Smalls.”

“It was pretty fun,” said Dylan, 11. With the win, Dylan carries on a family tradition. His father, Greg, captured the same title in 1985.

Greg said he had a premonition Dylan’s pig might be a big winner at the state fair.

“When we unloaded him (at the state fair), a friend of mine who I use to show and judge with looked at the pig and said, ‘Where the heck did you get him from?’” said Greg. “I just had a gut feeling it might be good. We had high hopes.”

Dylan and Smalls’ state-fair experience started at 9 a.m. Aug. 13 when Smalls won the Crossbred Barrow 269-pound to 270-pound class.

The pair then won crossbred middleweight and breed titles before advancing to the grand champion barrow show at 6 p.m.

Of the 700 hogs entered in the junior show, only breed champions can compete for the overall title. The final show was officiated by a pair of judges.

“At the end, one judge was talking on the mic and said the other judge would then go and shake the hand of the winner. He originally walked past Dylan, but then turned back and shook his hand,” said Dylan’s mom, Kate.

With his victory sealed, Smalls went from just another competitor in the junior show to a swine celebrity.

Immediately after the show, the state fair veterinarian took a urine sample from the winning pig. Following that, a tracking device was placed in the pig’s ear in case of theft.

A padlock only state fair officials could unlock was placed on Smalls’ pen, and an around-the-clock security guard kept tabs on the champion hog.

Dylan, a member of the Atkinson Boosters 4-H Club, said a number of visitors passed by the pen for a glimpse at Smalls and to congratulate the winning showman.

A large contingent of Henry County residents also were on hand to cheer for Dylan and Smalls.

Though the state fair gave Smalls big recognition, he started life much smaller.

“We named him smalls because he was the runt of the litter,” said Dylan’s younger brother, Kaleb.

Smalls was purchased from Duane Miller of Sheffield, and a number of the pig’s litter mates also had successful fair careers.

“A number from that litter were winners at various county fairs,” said Greg.

To get Smalls in top condition for the state fair show, Dylan and his brother worked to walk, feed and wash the pig. They also worked to keep the animal cool during the hot August days they were in Springfield.

After winning the junior show grand champion barrow title, Dylan had to miss part of his first day as a sixth-grader at Geneseo Middle?School on Aug. 17 to attend the Governor’s Sale of Champions.

At the sale, Dylan walked Smalls through rows of gathered bidders. He said he was mainly paying attention to his pig as the bids for Smalls climbed higher and higher.

In the end, DeKalb, Asgrow and Monsanto combined to buy Smalls for $18,000. All Governor’s Sale of Champions money is split between the junior producers who raised the animals and the state’s FFA and 4-H programs.

Dylan’s state fair experience was similar to his father’s 25 years ago. At that fair, Greg, then 15, won the junior show with a purebred Hampshire barrow. His hog raised $9,000 at the champions sale.

Greg Decker is shown with his Illinois State?Fair junior show champion barrow. He won the title in 1985 and his son, Dylan, recently won the 2010 title.