Reporter, volunteers reflect on Swine Times in past years

Published 11:42pm Tuesday, December 3, 2013

CLIMAX — The 39th annual Swine Time has not changed considerably since it began at the school grounds in Climax back in 1974. One thing has remained the same however — the people that attend and cover the festival.
Post-Searchlight reporter Joe Crine and Climax correspondent Jean Ouzts have covered the festival since it started.
Those reporters and long-time volunteers shared their favorite Swine Time memories about the one event each year that brings Climax to life.
For Gwen and Dutch Wingate, volunteering at the festival is like one big homecoming.
“There used to be a high school here and when that went away, everyone can see each other at Swine Time,” Gwen said. “Its like a homecoming — we get to see so many old acquaintances.”
The elderly couple works the information booth in front of the chitterling barn each year. This year the furthest person that signed the guestbook came from Australia, but Gwen notes he probably did not come to the U.S. just for Swine Time, but rather stopped by while visiting other people.
For reporter Joe Crine, he goes each year for the contests — covering the chitterling eating, hog calling and corn shucking festivities is his favorite part of Swine Time.
“Some say I am the only person not from Climax that has been all 39 years,” Crine said.
The now 69-year-old Crine was on the scene to cover the very first announcement of the Swine Time festivities.
“I took a picture of everyone on Main Street in Climax the day they made the announcement,” Crine said. “The mayor and everyone else gathered around a big hog and announced Swine Time would be the new festival.”
He and correspondent Jean Ouzts said the festival was first held at the Climax school grounds before it moved several times and finally to its location today — the official Swine Time grounds off of Main Street.
He remembers famous country western star B.J. Thomas attending one of the first Swine Times for the square dancing portion, which is now the Grand Ol Opry show.
“One year Georgia Governor Joe Frank Harris was in office and came to Swine Time the same year pro-baseball player and Decatur County native Ernie Riles came to Swine Time,” Crine said. “When I wrote the headline, I said Riles’ name first before the governor.”
When questioned why he did that, he replied, “Riles is having a better year this year than the governor.”
Riles had just been named USA Today’s Rookie of the Year.
Crine also remembers a story of a Pan American pilot from Climax who flew to Tokyo, Japan the weekend of Swine Time. There from his Tokyo hotel room, Crine laughed, he watched Swine Time in Climax on CNN.
His favorite memory of Swine Time includes sports.
“The late Mr. Earl Hester had a hog farm in Climax and the winner of the Swine Time run one year ran right by one of Hester’s giant sows.
“The runner told me in the interview that right when he ran by the pig it let out a big snort,” Crine said laughing. “The runner said that improved his time by more than 10 seconds he was so scared.”

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