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Indiana Pork kicks off state fair at breakfast



Associate Editor


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Comedian Jim Gaffigan may close out the Indiana State Fair with his Aug. 17 stand-up, but Gov. Mike Pence invoked the performer while opening the fair Friday morning at the Indy state fairgrounds.

Gaffigan, known in part for his food comedy, was a particularly pertinent inspiration for Pence, as he was speaking before Indiana Pork officials at their annual early-morning breakfast. Bacon, Pence quoted to laughter, tastes so good "that they wrap other food in it … Even the frying of bacon sounds like applause."

The state’s pork farmers were encouraged to applaud their own efforts during the past year in supplying domestic and international markets with bacon and other meat, especially in the face of the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus. Moreover, they have continued the charitable work of supplying ground pork to state food banks through the "Million Meals" partnership with Feeding Indiana’s Hungry (FIsH).

Thanks to a livestock promotion grant from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, state fairgoers can get in on contributing to FIsH too. Through Aug. 17, if you buy a meal deal at one of Indiana Pork’s three tents on-site – not just meat or sandwiches, but upgrading to a full meal, explained Indiana Pork President Kirk Thornburg – the organization will donate one meal’s worth of ground pork to Million Meals.

The goal is to sell 30,000 meals, which would mean a donation of 7,500 pounds of ground pork (one-quarter pound each serving).

More help for Million Meals came from perennial sponsors First Farmers Bank & Trust, whose representatives presented a $10,000 check Friday to FIsH Executive Director Emily Weikert Bryant. To learn more about donating to the Million Meals effort, visit

Pence said Indiana ranks fifth in the United States for pork production because of the efforts of more than 3,000 pig farmers and their families and workers (who are sometimes the same people).

Thornburg said the biggest challenge these producers face right now would have to be losses from and monitoring for PED, though he admitted they have also benefited from lower grain prices this year.

"We’re going to enjoy it while we can, and maybe try saving for when (the prices) go up again," he observed.

One hog owner who undoubtedly appreciates lower grain prices is David Lamb of Carroll County. His family and the Woodward family are the owners of Spotosaurus Rex, named later on Friday as World’s Largest Male Hog at the state fair. Rex weighed 1,007 pounds – which is just a smidge larger than he was when Lamb bought him at 10 pounds more than two years ago.

"We feed him 25 to 30 pounds a day," said Lamb.

In the same contest, A&H Showpigs from Crothersville placed second with an 888-pound hog named Junior and Terry Mellencamp and Trenton Collins was third with their 567-pound Mikey. Rex will remain on display during the rest of the fair in a labeled pen near the west entrance of the Swine Barn.

Expensive surroundings


Another accomplishment Pence and Indiana Pork celebrated was this year’s breakfast venue, on the floor of the renovated Coliseum.

After a $63 million, 18-month renovation, the 75-year-old showpiece is set to be home to several events over the next couple of weeks, including Hoosier Lottery’s 25th anniversary show, the Celebration of Champions, the National Belgian Draft Horse Show and entertainers such as Gaffigan.

The Coliseum will also be available for events year-round, as is the fairgrounds itself. Pence reminisced in fact, that his first date with his wife, Karen, was in 1983 tagging along to ice-skate with her and her niece and nephew at the Coliseum. "It’s so special to so many Hoosiers," he added. "Everybody’s got a memory here."

To make your own memories at the Coliseum – or the midway, or livestock barns, or food tents, or the Glass Barn or even the Indiana Beer & Wine Tasting pavilion – through Aug. 17, visit for schedules and other details.

Smart phone users may again this year download an app from iOS or Android stores with information, including a fairgrounds map to get around; be sure to turn on your device’s GPS capability to use the map.