Preble County Pork Festival History

Preble County is located in rural Southwestern Ohio and has a strong agricultural economic base. In order to foster a better understanding between the farm comrnunity and a growing urban community a "Farm-City Day" was held annually in the county for several years. In 1970 several members of the committee responsible for the success of this event met to discuss its continuation or an alternate program.

The idea of a Pork Festival was suggested and four people visited the festival held at Tipton, Indiana. Those making the trip to Tipton were Paul L. Gerstner, County Extension Agent, Agriculture; George Cummings, Conservationist with the Preble Soil and Water Conservation District; Tim H. Miller, editor of the Register-Herald, a local weekly and correspondent for other area news media; and Herb Tinstman, Manager of the Federal Land Bank Association of Eaton, who became the first Festival Chairrnan and Executive Vice President of the Board of Directors.

The Festival is incorporated and the board was formed with a husband-wife team from each of the county's 12 townships. Festival planning occurred at monthly meetings and a plan of organization was established in the early years in which as many as 25 committee chairmen were selected by the festival chairman. These chairmen picked their own committee members and proceeded along their own course, obtaining direction from the festival chairman and a board member appointed to each committee as liaison.

A Pork Festival for Preble County is a very natural event. Following W.W.II the demand for lard and fat products declined rapidly and Preble County, for many years one of the top six pork producers in the state, was soon going to feel the impact. Through the efforts of the late Wilbur Bruner, then the County Extension Agent and later to become a swine specialist with The Ohio State University Cooperative Extension Service, the first swine testing station was established in Preble County in 1946. We,therefore, claim the distinction of being " The Home of Swine Improvement in America". These early efforts of Bruner and participating local farmers helped bring the world leaner, higher quality, more nutritious pork.

The Preble County Pork Festival is a non-profit organization with membership open to anyone living in the county. Total life memberships exceed 300 from both the rural and urban sectors.

Growth of the festival was given a boost with national publicity resulting from the arrest of the late Billy DeWolfe, famed actor of Hollywood, California, who was charged with speeding on I-70 while traveling through Preble County. Since Preble County became a topic of conversation on several national talk shows, DeWolfe was invited to attend the 1972 festival. He arrived in the area on Thursday before the event and was immediately accepted as a member of the community which he adopted as his own. DeWolfe appeared throughout the festival, was a guest on area television shows and returned for the 1973 festival.

The festival was also host to National Safety Sheriff Joe Higgins at the 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978 festivals and to country singer Jeannie C. Riley in 1979. Recent emphasis has been on family entertainment with musical groups highlighting the event. Several university marching bands have appeared including Purdue in 1983 and 1991, Miami in 1984 and 1988, Ohio State in 1985, Bowling Green in 1986 and Kent State in 1987. The All-Ohio State Fair Choir, directed by the late Glenville Thomas, also appeared several times.

Proceeds from the festival are returned to the community through various improvements to the fairgrounds. In 1975-76 the festival corporation built the Bruner Arena swine complex. In 1979 it financed an electrical distribution system for the fairgrounds. In 1984 two pavilion type buildings were constructed and a 27-acre tract of land was purchased to provide access eastward to Wayne Trace Road. In 1989-91 a sanitary sewer trunk line was installed throughout the fairgrounds, eliminating septic tanks and providing for future building growth. In 1992 a festival storage building was built and another building was refurbished for a kitchen facility. In 1994 Bruner Arena was enlarged to provide additional meeting and office space and greatly expanded restroom facilities. Current proceeds are being directed toward the maintenance and upgrading of existing buildings located on the central area of the fairgrounds.

The festival corporation also funds and awards an annual scholarship in memory of the late Tim H. Miller who served as festival chairman for twenty-one years and to whom much credit belongs for the festival's success.

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