Central Minnesota CU sponsors Melrose Riverfest
St. Cloud Times © 06/23/2014 – MELROSE, Minn. – At first, watching pigs dash around a 100-foot oval track to the powdered-sugar doughnut at the finish was entertainment enough.
The act drew 40 or 50 people to the Bear’s Den bar in Leader, a tiny town outside Motley. Admission was free, betting wasn’t allowed and pig races were a novelty. Bar owner Gary Dauer and his wife, Glenda — who got the idea after seeing something similar at a middle-of-nowhere Montana bar — eventually added competitions and games. Made a family-friendly show out of it. Attracted 300-500 people. Started charging a few dollars for admission.
People asked if they’d take the show on the road. Three years ago, they got a 20-foot, air-conditioned trailer and set out on the festival circuit. With son Jeremy running a second show, this summer they’ll play about 30 venues.
At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, their 90-minute act will return to Melrose Riverfest. Between eight or 10 pig races, the show might work in a hula competition, a Mardi Gras bead toss, a “Sweet Caroline” sing-along, a flag ceremony honoring veterans or — for the adults — a race to the finish line on an inflatable horse, set to the tune of Big & Rich’s “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy).”
“The music that we use for the piggies to run with is pretty upbeat music,” Dauer said.
Each race features five pigs and lasts about 20 seconds.
“We used to dress them up in outfits,” Dauer said. “They don’t like to be dressed. They get a little crazy and they squeal a lot and then people think you’re hurting them.”
So they switched to colored bandanas.
“The little pigs, they’re so darling,” said Kathie Dziengel, executive director of the Melrose Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s just so well received.”
Charlene Van Drehle, who works at Central Minnesota Credit Union, one of the event sponsors, has attended previous shows with her grandchildren.
“The ringmaster is very creative. He gets the people going,” Van Drehle said.
Dauer, 60, who recently retired from teaching CNC machining at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, said he was a city boy who grew up in New Ulm. He now lives on an 80-acre hobby farm, but hadn’t raised — let alone trained — pigs before. Now Dauer trains 150-200 Duroc, Hampshire and spotted pigs a summer. Teaching them to run for the doughnut — a treat only served up in training and races — when a bell sounds takes two or three hours a day for two weeks. He starts working with the animals when they’re about 18 pounds, sells them about four weeks later when they reach 50 pounds.
“When they get to be 40, 50 pounds, I like to call them teenagers. They don’t like to listen,” Dauer said. “They become pets, actually. They become very, very friendly to me and my son as well.”
But the pigs don’t get names.
“It’s just tough to continue to name them and then get rid of them and then name them,” Dauer said.
Shows can draw up to 2,000 people.
Dauer, who still returns for weekend pig races at the bar, said he simply enjoys entertaining.
“It has been a tough world for the last 10 years,” he said.
A medallion hunt, street dance and 5K are among the June 27-28 festivities.
- 8 a.m.: Hourly clues begin for the medallion hunt. Clues will be available on Facebook and on the Melrose Chamber window. Winner will receive $100.
- 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Arvig-Grill N Bouncy.
- Street dance at Melrose Bowl featuring Kid Hollywood, sponsored by the Melrose Fire Department.
- 7-7:40 a.m.: Registration for the 1K/5K run/walk. 1K begins at 8 a.m. ($15); 5K begins at 8:30 a.m. ($30).
- 10 a.m.: Softball tournament begins.
- 10:30 a.m.: Parade.
- 3 p.m.: Bean bag tournament begins.
Details: Melrose Area Chamber of Commerce, 320-256-7174; www.melrosemn.org.