Behind the Shows: the show must go on for Pa. 4-H siblings

kids walking pigs
iblings Riley, Jaesa and Drew McGraw walk their pigs through a pasture at their home in Ohioville, Pennsylvania, July 14. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

OHIOVILLE, Pa. — It’s just over a month out from the Lawrence County Fair. That is, if there was going to be a fair. The fair, set for Aug. 17-22, was canceled at the beginning of June.

Nevertheless, the McGraw childrens’ pigs they were raising to show for 4-H still need to be fed, they need water and they need to be walked every day.

So, like they do every evening, Drew, Riley and Jaesa McGraw make the trek through the horse pasture July 14 to the pig barn at the back of their property. Jaesa is still wearing her softball uniform from a game she played in earlier.

The children let the pigs out in small groups to walk them down the hill and then back up.

Some of the pigs are more eager than others to get their daily exercise in. Spot and Stripe gleefully run out of the gate and sprint around the kids before heading down the hill.

Once they’re done, most go back into their pens without issue. Except for Trouble. Her name used to be Red, but she earned a new one with her unruly behavior.

“Sometimes, we have to chase her around for an hour,” Jaesa said.

girl pets pig
Jaesa McGraw pets her favorite pig, Squeal. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

Summertime slowdown

Over the summer, they got two barn kittens from a neighbor and named them Happy and Tony. The names were, in part, inspired by one of the other ways the McGraws have been spending their time during the pandemic.

They watched all the Marvel films from the modern cinematic universe in order for the first time, starting with Iron Man and ending with Avengers: Endgame. That’s 22 films.

The busy family of five doesn’t usually have a lot of time for movies, said Lauren McGraw, the childrens’ mother. But life slowed down with school closed, activities canceled and social gatherings limited.

With superheroes on the brain, the family’s new kittens were named after Iron Man characters Tony Stark and his chauffeur and right-hand man, Happy.

Happy the kitten happily follows the children down the pig barn for their evening walk, as does the family dog, Sasha.

They try to walk the pigs twice a day — once in the morning and once at night. If it’s scorchingly hot, like it has been recently, they only get an evening walk once the sun starts down over the hill.

The heat has been good for rate of gain. The pigs seem to be growing better this year than the cool, wet years past, Lauren McGraw said. Socks especially has gotten big. Trouble, on the other hand, has not only been creating trouble for pigs and humans, but she’s having trouble gaining weight.

The heat also means more work to keep the pigs cool. They have to haul more water down to the barn, not just to fill the waterers indoors but also for them to wallow around in. The pigs love getting water dumped on them. Drew said they’ll dance around, jockeying for position to get doused.

kids and pigs
Drew McGraw introduces her kitten, Happy, to one of their 4-H pigs as her brother, Riley, looks on, July 14, 2020, in Ohioville, Pennsylvania. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

The show goes on

Although the fair is canceled, there will be a show. A private livestock show and auction has been set up for the fair’s youth exhibitors. The Backyard Blast will be held during the week the fair would have been held at the showgrounds, in Harlansburg.

The schedule has been condensed to limit the amount of time animals and families spend on the grounds. The children can show every animal that was entered in the fair originally, but only one can be sold at the auction.

But the McGraw kids are still sad to be missing out on the other parts of the fair — like the food.

“I’m gonna miss Smokin’ Daves BBQ,” Riley said. Even though Smokin’ Daves BBQ has a restaurant location, it just tastes better at the fair.

For Drew, it’s the pumpkin funnel cakes.

Jaesa is going to miss riding the rides and hanging out with her cousins. In addition to market animals, also, they show their horses at the fair usually. Last year was the first year they were going to camp out at the fair all week and keep their horses there, instead of just trailering their horses in on show days.

It didn’t work out quite the way they planned after Riley got bitten by a bat right before the fair was set to start last year. So, they planned to try again this year, staying at the fair with their horses.

There’s always next year, Lauren McGraw said.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or


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