‘Bacon Buddies’ Show Reminds Everyone to Appreciate the Little Things

It’s in its fourth year at the Iowa State Fair and again, organizers are calling it a success. It’s the Bacon Buddies, a collaboration between the Iowa Pork Producers Association and the Iowa Special Olympics that gives individuals who have intellectual or developmental disabilities the opportunity to take a pig into the show ring. Their mentors include 4H and FFA youth who have volunteered to share that show ring experience right along with them. Judges for the show where Mike and Cristen Clark, who have been close with the bacon buddies from the start,

It’s such an emotion packed event for me, you know, I love to see the smiles on the kids as faces. There was one specific kid at the very end of the show that just gobsmacked me with a comment. You know, don’t take the little things for granted. And I think that’s what this show is all about. And the seeing the kids work together and make these friendships and bonds and memories that will last a lifetime is so important and fun. It was fun to be a part of, of course some athletes more talkative than others.

But as Mike pointed out, the mentors who also offered their pigs for the athletes to show did an amazing job of working as a team and filling in the gaps.

We had great characters, but it was neat though. We had great athletes, some wanted to talk some didn’t want to talk and the mentors they understood that ahead of time and they picked up the slack if their if their buddy didn’t want to speak or or be welcoming wanted to be off by themselves or did you have one of these. Those buddies those mentors took right over did a great job. They were great on the microphone. what a what a great tribute. Those kids just did an awesome job stepping up. It was neat.

While the Bacon Buddy show is at its core, a swine show. Cristen said it’s even more important that these participants and their mentors end the day with lifelong memories and friendships.

I have been involved with this show for a couple of years now. And it’s crazy when you leave the barn, you’ll actually see some of the buddies and the mentors together down on the ground or on the Main Concourse just exploring the fare taking in the sights. And that to me is you know the culmination of what the show is about everyone’s included and we’re all having fun together

And for the mentors, Mike said the show helps build career skills that they can take home with them.

They sacrifice their time, you can tell they all show great leadership qualities. And when you as a young person can look up a stranger in the eye, get on a microphone, talk and discuss and be natural and comfortable. Those are skills that they’ll take for the rest of their lives too. If this thing doesn’t get you in the fields standing around this ring. Boy I tell ya, it’s this is one of the greatest things. This is one of the greatest programs on this fairgrounds bar none at all.

Bacon Buddies now spreading to more than 30 county fairs in Iowa.