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Pig Lovers Go Hog Wild Over Exhibit at Fair


Most people who glance at Thummer, the official mascot of the Los Angeles County Fair, see 600 blubbery pounds of pig panting atop a cool bed of sawdust.

But Billie Hart, the resident hog maven at the fair's "World of Pigmania" exhibit, sees latex gloves, whipped cream, anti-freeze and ChapStick.

"If people only knew how much these noble creatures give us, they'd love them even more," said Hart, a 72-year-old former nurse from Villa Park. "They're in everything we touch. Isn't it marvelous?"

That may not have been the first thought on the minds of the tens of thousands of people who flooded the Fairplex in Pomona on Saturday for the second day of what has been billed as the world's largest county fair.

Until Sept. 30, Hart and the "Pigmania" pavilion will have to compete for attention with a replica of the space shuttle Columbia, shooting galleries, inflatable Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtles and stomach-challenging rides such as "Orbiter," "Kamikazi," "Gravitron" and "Quasar."

Even the livestock, often hailed as the heart and soul of the fair, is exotic. There's a miniature horse, pygmy goats, wild Watusis, 8 1/2-foot-tall ostriches and a team of racing armadillos.

But given a chance, Hart, a livestock consultant whose business card reads, "There's More than Meats the Eye," can more than hold her own. Although she may be something of a Dr. Strangelove to the animal-rights lobby, she says her fascination with the by-products of four-legged creatures has only enhanced her respect for them.

"You just know that they're going to be grazing forever on the beautiful green grass that must be up there," she said with a nod to the heavens. "I really feel God planned it that way."

Look for her seated under a small tent, just a couple yards from Thummer's pen, behind an extraordinary spread of products--apart from the obvious--for which pigs have given their all. There's a beer can, crayons, photographic film, gum, an eraser, a cassette tape, air freshener, insulin and a heart valve encased in plastic.

She might even pick up a baseball, courtesy of the California Angels, and explain how the leather comes from cowhide, the stuffing from sheep wool, the rubber core from the fatty tissue of livestock and the cork, although originally from a tree, gets treated with their blood.

"People usually don't get squeamish when you tell them this," Hart said. "They just don't know."

Not everyone at the "Pigmania" exhibit wanted to talk science.

"I love pigs, I really do," said Virginia Young, 66, who has a collection of nearly 200 ceramic swine at her Torrance home. "And I don't eat them either. They're so cute."

But as Thummer dug his huge snout into the sawdust, hoping to beat the heat, Hart said being cuddly is only half his mission.

"If you're a pig, there's life after death," she said. "Long after they're gone, they go on serving."

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