“I’d do almost anything for 4-H,” said Delaware Farm Bureau Executive Director Joseph Poppiti, who heads the list of 19 volunteer fundraisers willing to kiss a pig at the Delaware State Fair if they raise the most money for the 4-H scholarship program.
The event started in 1993 and was coordinated by the Harrington Business Association to recognize youth exhibitors at the Delaware State Fair.
Doug Crouse, state 4-H program leader, said, “The first year, we raised enough monies to support one $500 scholarship. We have raised as much as $10,000. My goal is always in the $5,000 level each year, and our participants have done well in meeting this goal. During the past 25 years, we have given out scholarships totaling more than $136,500.”
Three years ago, the Delaware 4-H Foundation took over coordination of the contest. Crouse still serves as chair for the new group. Each year, he recruits 15-20 potential pig kissers to raise money to support scholarships for junior state fair exhibitors in 4-H, FFA Livestock and Open Class departments.
He said, “One hundred percent of the monies raised by our participants each year is given back out in scholarships.”
Crouse also solicits business sponsorships to cover any expenses from the event. Anything left over from sponsorships is added to the scholarship dollars awarded.
The event is held each year on the Delaware State Fair’s free entertainment stage on the second fair Thursday, at 3 p.m. This year’s date is July 25.
Crouse said all fundraisers are interviewed and participate in fun activities on stage as part of the event, and earlier in the day, “We hold a reception for the participants and provide them drink and dessert. This is a requirement by the pig - candidates must be sweetened up in order for the pig to agree to kiss them!”
The individual who raises the most money gets to kiss the pig. Crouse said, “If we have corporate participants, we also have the top corporate participant kiss the pig. In addition, we started having the person who raises the least amount of money also kiss the pig. Finally, based on their interviews and actions up on stage, we also have the audience favorite, chosen by applause, kiss the pig.”
Last year’s winner was Tammy Schirmer, Sussex County 4-H administrative assistant, who raised $2,700.
Schirmer said, “I set a goal of $3,000 and I was overwhelmed by the response I received. Collecting so much means a great deal, as the funds went directly to college scholarships for junior exhibitors at the fair. One scholarship was awarded to our Sussex County youth. Supporting the program here at the University of Delaware, I have the pleasure of watching youth come out of their shell and blossom. 4-H is a wonderful program for our youth! So, yes, this year I set a higher goal and for 4-H this year I will be glad to once again pucker up for a pig!”
Contest participants this year include: Joseph Poppiti, executive director of Delaware Farm Bureau; Chad Robinson, City of Harrington 150th Anniversary chair; Robert Brode, Harrington Fire Company chief; Farmington Mayor Richie Smith, deputy chief of Farmington Fire Company; Kelly Willey of Shore United Bank; Cpl. Brad Reed and Cpl. Shawn Jacobs of Harrington Police Department; Cpl. Juanita Huey-Smith, Delaware State Police Community Outreach Unit and Mounted Patrol Unit; Angie Gooden, Kent County 4-H Livestock Committee; Ashley Gouge, New Castle County 4-H; Christina Gallo, 2019-20 Teacher of the Year, Lake Forest School District; Joseph Menard, Kent County 4-H leader; McKenzie Ivory and Emily Emerson, Delaware FFA; Paige Davison, Delaware State Fair; Steve Walters, Harrington Raceway & Casino; and Jim Eastman, Harrington Senior Center. Last to enter the race are Donna and Jackie King of King Crop Insurance.