One after another, people step up to the microphone, they clear their throats loudly and launch into their call.
“Sooey! Come ’ere, pig! Here, pig-pig-pig-pig! Soo-EEEEEE!”
No, this isn’t a group of Arkansas Razorback fans celebrating their latest win. This is a hog-calling contest — but there’s no pig in sight.
This is how old-time farmers would call their free-ranging pigs or attract wild hogs. But today the contests are mainly a test of who can be the loudest, most creative and most outrageous when it comes to drawing in the hypothetical swine.
Kids and adults can flaunt their hog-calling skills July 4 at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park.
While Independence Day may call up memories of barbecue, fireworks and a day at the lake, we’ve tracked down some more unusual ways to celebrate America’s 240th birthday. This year, the oddities include cannon-firing at Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farmin Olathe and a classic car show in Raymore.
Deanna Rose’s pig contest begins at 10 a.m. at Gayle’s Exploration Outpost behind Vic’s General Store.
“It’s really amusing to hear what the kids are thinking and saying,” said Laura Blatter, supervisor for public programs at Recreation Services of Overland Park. “Some holler ‘sooey,’ while others snort to make the pig sound from storybooks, and some get up there and say ‘Here little piggy, come here.’ ”
These past few years it’s been an informal event, and all participants receive a small plastic pig. Winners, chosen by the audience, receive a bigger prize, like a T-shirt or stuffed animal. Last year, about 35 children participated — no adult has been brave enough to try.
The event’s not huge, but it’s hard to find a major hog-calling contest in Kansas or Missouri. The big time is the Illinois State Fair, which holds a contest every year — with amusing results.
“It’s very entertaining,” said Rebecca Clark, communications manager in Springfield, Ill. “It’s just another one of those traditions we have at the Illinois State Fair. There’s some people who get really into it and are really prepared for this — it’s a whole giant production.”
Chris Karr from Seymour, Ill., is a 10-time state champion hog caller who was featured on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” in 2009. This summer will mark his 25th year competing, although he got his start as a farm kid doing chores. To feed the hogs each day, he’d call them into a barn from an open field.
When he moved to competitive hog calling, he added a skit to his vocal skills, tying it to the theme of the fair. Last year’s theme was “Growing Illinois,” and Karr put a fake pig in an antique high chair surrounded by ears of corn to accompany his performance.
“The most entertaining is just the yelling and screaming,” Karr said. “It’s really a lost art.
“You can theorize you have to be pretty crazy to do that,” he said with a laugh.
His advice for kids competing at the Farmstead? Be specific in your idea and clear in your presentation — and don’t forget about the most important part:
“When you have a calling contest, my theory is that a pig should come to you — even if it’s in the form of a stuffed pig,” he said.
Cost for attending the Farmstead’s Fourth of July celebration is $2 per person. Children younger than 2 are free.
“Boom” goes the cannon
Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm will offer a different kind of explosion for the Fourth of July: blasts from a 19th-century-style cannon.
The cannon, a reproduction of a 12-pound mountain howitzer, will fire blanks to re-create a typical Fourth of July celebration of the era, said site manager Tim Talbott. Mountain howitzers were popular in the West because they were smaller and easier to transport in rough terrain. In sunshine you can see smoke from the cannon, but on an overcast day, you can even see the cannon’s sparks.
The firings at the historic site, timed for around 12:10 p.m., will follow a reading of the Declaration of Independence at noon by Talbott, who will be dressed in period clothing. A band will perform patriotic music from the era at 2 p.m.
The stagecoach stop continues its Independence Day celebration with fireworks on July 7. Tickets for the Independence Day celebration cost $7 for adults and $5 for children 5-11. Olathe residents receive a $2 discount. Mahaffie is at 1200 E. Kansas City Road in Olathe.
Rev up the Fourth
Dust off that chrome and rev up those engines: Raymore’s Spirit of America will host a classic car show at 4 p.m. on July 4 at Recreation Park.
Sixty to 75 cars show up each year, said Mike Ekey, communications manager for Raymore.
“It’s really interesting the number of folks out here who own classic cars,” he said. “There’s a fun community that exists — they all know each other — so it’s fun to be part of that for a day as they show off these really neat classic and muscle cars.”
The event draws a couple thousand people whose votes decide the people’s choice award winner. Judges will also give awards for best in show and best car within a certain brand. Ekey said the coolest car he’s seen at the event was a 1930s-style ambulance similar to the Ecto-1 from the “Ghostbusters” films.
“They put a lot of heart into making it authentic and cool,” he said. “There’s nothing more American than a classic car show.”
Kids can take part in outdoor games at 7 p.m. A live band will take the stage at 7 p.m., and a fireworks display will light up the sky at 9:30 p.m. The park is at 1011 S. Madison in Raymore.