I couldn’t help looking back as I prepare to be Grand Marshall of Swine Time

Published 3:30 pm Friday, November 18, 2016

During my 46 years as sports editor of this fine newspaper I developed many fond memories that will stay with me the rest of my life.

Through those memories I also developed many fond friendships. This year Climax Community Club President Sarah Dollar has invited me to be Grand Marshal of Climax’s annual Swine Time Festival, which is held the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year.

The invitation means a particularly lot to me because the people of Climax have been like a second family to me through the years. I was there more than 40 years ago when the Swine Time Festival began.

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My dear late friend Clifford Wells was president of the Climax Club and his dear wife Fannie won a contest to name the festival. I remember taking a picture in Climax of the community club members, the Climax mayor, and city council members of the time around a big hog when they announced that they were beginning a festival called Swine Time that would be held the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year.

I have been to every past Swine Time and have thoroughly enjoyed them all. My past Post-Searchlight publishers and editors Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin and his son Sam Griffin were both Grand Marshals before, along with myself.

I was Swine Time Grand Marshal once before. It was the year that my dear friend Ann Ariail was President of the Climax Community Club. Her dear late husband, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Ariail, handled Swine Time parking and traffic control through the years.

During Decatur County’s historic 1994 flood the Georgia National Guard set up a control center on Climax’s Swine Time grounds. It was Climax’s retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Doyce Ariail, for whom the portion of U.S. Highway 84 going through Climax is named, who helped the National Guard relay messages from the communications center. The following year the National Guard returned to Climax as Swine Time Grand Marshals. Arial’s son Tom Ariail, a West Point graduate, has also been a featured Swine Time guest. His son Chip Ariail, a Bainbridge High School soccer coach, and local attorney Paul Fryer conduct the always-successful Swine Time Run, which my brother Tom runs in. One year the winner of the run told me that when he ran by Mr. Earl Hester’s hog farm a big hog let out a snort and it improved his time by 10 seconds. The greasy pig chase is also always a Swine Time highlight.

I remember the year that Climax’s Earnest Riles, a member of the first class of the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame and a Climax native, and Georgia Governor Joe Frank Harris were special guests at Swine Time. It was the year that Riles was USA Today American League Rookie of the Year with the Milwaukee Brewers.

I ran a headline on my Swine Time story that read “Riles and Governor to headline Swine Time”. Sam came back to my desk and asked me why I gave Riles a better billing than the governor. I simply replied that as USA Today Rookie of the Year he had a better year than the Governor. We both had a little chuckle over my comment.

The summer before that Swine Time, while visiting my New Jersey cousins, I visited Yankee Stadium where the Brewers were playing the New York Yankees and took a picture of Riles on the Milwaukee Dugout steps, Sam printed several hundred copies of that photo and he passed them out the following fall on the Swine Time grounds and I signed them for local residents.

Later in his professional career, Riles was with San Francisco Giants and hit the 10,000th homerun in the history of the Giants franchise in New York and San Francisco.

The bat and ball from that historic moment are on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Riles and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets sports Hall of Fame defensive back James Butler, who are both former Bainbridge School Bearcat athletes, are from Climax. Butler was a defensive back on the New York Giants football team that beat the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.