CINCINNATI - Long before E.B. White's famous tale about a magnanimous pig being pumped up by a public relations minded spider, swine had been a part of the Hamilton County Fair. That fair dates back to the Civil War.
The only pigs you'll find at the Hamilton County fairgrounds this year will be either in an old picture of hogs racing that hangs in the fairground offices, or already made into some tasty pork product like barbecue or pork chops.
That's because fair officials don't want to risk the public health after 14 people were sickened with swine flu caused by contact with hogs at the Butler County Fair in July.
"Pigs will be represented, with plenty of barbecue, pork ribs, pork chops and bacon," said Jerry Teuschler, an official with the fair.
But despite a bevy of other animals, including chickens, turkeys, goats, horses and a lion and tiger show, pigs will only be on the menu and not accessible to the public.
Teuschler said public reaction to the swine flu outbreak in Butler County made not having swine an easy decision.
"We opted not to go with swine--to have a swine-free fair this year," he said.
Last year's Hamilton County Fair was swine free as well when the 4-H that put on the annual hog show decided not to have their show at the fairgrounds last year. This year was different. The lack of swine was a choice caused more by the possibility of the public getting sick.
But south of the Ohio River in Boone County, pigs and the fair still go hand-in-hoof.
Prize-winning pigs are on display for the public at the Boone County Fair in Burlington. Gaggles of kids can try and catch a pig by its tail, or hoof and win a cash prize.
Swine flu doesn't seem to be a big concern.
One parent said he would encourage his son to try and catch the pig in the pig-catching contest, and then thoroughly wash his hands.
But quietly and without changing its tradition, Boone County fair officials have put up signs that prohibit touching animals. They've provided hand-washing stations and encouraged that practice.
"We have never had a problem, therefore we don't expect a problem and we're going to continue right on," said John Walton, Chair of the fair.
He added if there was a problem discovered, it would be corrected immediately.
As for the pig catching contest, the pigs are selected from a local farmer who takes precautions to keep his pigs sanitary and flu free.
Officials say until there is a reason for pigs to not be at the fair, the pig policy won't change.
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