Veterans in the Central Valley have a 255-pound hog to thank when they board a plane on their next trip to see war memorials in Washington, D.C.
Sparky, a thick black pig, was auctioned off Saturday at The Big Fresno Fair to a booming crowd inside the livestock building.
Originally, Sparky sold for $27 a pound. Then, a bidding that followed the auction combined Sparky’s original bid with extra generosity from many spectators, who committed to amounts between $500 to $2,000. An early estimate had fundraising totals at around $36,000.
Surely, Sparky doesn’t know what he’s worth. He barely stood still for a flash photo with his bidders and he quickly snoozed after the auction. But for his handler, 16-year-old Hayden Tarr, Sparky’s price is special.
The full proceeds from Sparky’s auction will directly benefit the Central Valley Honor Flight. The flight program takes veterans on tours of the World War II, Korean and Vietnam War memorials in the nation’s capital.
“It is fun and really neat to see your hard work pay off,” the Sierra High School junior said. “It was more special to see the amount of support from all the people here just willing to donate whatever they had on them.”
According to the auctioneers, it’s unusual to see students hand off 100 percent of the proceeds from an auction to a place other than their own pockets.
The auctioneer made sure the audience was well aware of exactly how significant Hayden’s choice was to give away the full proceeds to the Honor Flight program.
“They risked their lives for us and you just blessed them in an absolutely incredible way that no one could predict,” Central Valley Honor Flight representative Paul Loeffler later told the audience after the bidding on Sparky. A batch of young kids also turned in $20 each as way to pitch in.
Though, for Hayden and his family, it wasn’t a hard decision to make at all. Sparky, awarded the Supreme Reserve Grand Champion title, was one of two pigs that Hayden landed in top four at the livestock show, a rare feat for a student and even more impressive considering more than 350 pigs were up for honors.
Animals who land in the top four spots at the livestock show are required to sell. Hayden’s first auction of the day was for Supreme Grand Champion and 259-pound Mack, who sold for $25 a pound. Aside from the bid value, Hayden earned a $1,000 prize from Busseto Foods.
The funds that will go to the honor flight make Hayden’s work of getting first and second place at the show pay off, he said. Two of his great-grandparents are World War II veterans, and his mom Angie Tarr says the Tarrs consider some neighbors who are veterans as “extra grandparents.”
Tarr admitted it was a surprise to find out Hayden’s pigs had landed first and second place. But she said it was a welcome gift at the right moment. So the family decided to share it.
“We all came to the conclusion that we needed to do something with the blessings of that second hog,” Tarr said. “Central Valley Honor Flight is something that we follow what they’re doing, the kids listen to the stories of the veterans on the radio, we’ve signed up to be companions if they needed. So it felt like a really comfortable fit for us.”
Anyone who would like to contribute to the Central Valley Honor Flight donations can call the fair’s livestock office at 559-650-3292 by Oct. 17.