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Hog for Fun : The San Fernando Valley Fair will feature four days of square dancing, rodeo events, cow-milking contests and livestock auctions.


Twelve hundred pounds of swine. The undisputed heavyweight champ. A hairy, snorting Volkswagen.

Harley is on his way.

He's probably riding in the back of a truck somewhere, for the life of the world's largest pig is a restless existence, traveling from town to town, from show to show. Next weekend, he visits the 1993 San Fernando Valley Fair.

Don't think the enormity of his arrival is lost on Eric Avalos, who has been fussing over a considerably smaller pig, Gun, in a back yard in Mission Hills.

"She had a heatstroke on me," the 4-H Club member explains.

Gun may not make it to the fair. She has gained 75 pounds in the last two months, but she's still a few pounds short of the 190 required for entrance in the junior auction. Eric has tinkered with her feed. He sprinkles her with water each morning and turns a fan on her all day long.

"The hotter they are," the 15-year-old Eric says, "the less they eat."

And you thought that the fair was just fun and games.

No, the annual event--which this year carries the moniker "Four Days of Yahoos"--will offer much more than square dancing and midway games. Running Thursday through Saturday, it will fill the Los Angeles Equestrian Center with all sorts of competitive endeavors, be they horse shows, rodeo events, cow-milking contests or livestock auctions.

There are some $40,000 in cash awards as well as auction profits to be had.

"If you're raising an animal, you don't just let it sit in the pen and throw it some food," said Marcia Thompson, Eric's 4-H Club community leader. "It's round-the-clock work, feeding and training. You want something that is clean and healthy and has a decent weight to it. You're looking for a good hanging carcass."

That's good old-fashioned fun, according to fair organizers, who refer to their annual festival as a tribute to the Valley's agricultural past, to the days before endless rows of lemon trees fell to endless rows of tract homes. Days when the Valley was a place to cultivate, rather than a cul-de-sac.

The fair began in 1946, at San Fernando Ball Park, featuring Palomino horses and entertainment by trampoline artists "Krick and Bodo." Gale-force winds forced an early closure that inaugural year.

For decades thereafter, the annual event made its home at Devonshire Downs.

A 1988 eviction sent the fair packing. Pierce College initially offered to provide the needed land, then withdrew the invitation because of last-minute protests by homeowners. The Hansen Dam Recreation Area, in Lake View Terrace, sufficed for the next three years. Attendance fluctuated and the fair's organizers, the 51st District Agricultural Assn., lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The move to the Equestrian Center, in 1992, saved the association $100,000 in rent and setup costs. The new location also allowed for such traditional attractions as the rodeo and horse show, which had been scrapped for lack of facilities at Hansen Dam.

Last year's fair, marred by rain and an earthquake, drew crowds of about 35,000. Fair organizers are hoping for 50,000 next week.

"It's a matter of the public knowing about us," said Sal Buccieri, the fair's president.

The extravaganza will, once again, offer fine dining from all three of the traditional fair food groups: corn dogs, cotton candy and candied apples. There will be games of skill, a petting zoo and educational exhibits.

"For the kids, it's fascinating," Buccieri said. "It's all stuff that maybe they have read about, but now they get to touch it."

For the adults, the Harry James Orchestra performs Thursday night. Lacy J. Dalton appears as the headline act Saturday evening. Dalton won the "Best New Female Vocalist" award from the Academy of Country Music in 1980 and, in that decade, scored hits with such songs as "Losing Kind of Love," "Crazy Blue Eyes" and "Takin' It Easy."

And if that's not enough, Iron Eyes Cody, the American Indian of television and movie fame, will be in attendance as the fair's grand marshal.

The only one who may not be at the fair is Gun. With Harley barreling into town, Eric is desperately coaxing his pig to gain a few more pounds. He's thinking that if he worms her, it might help.


Location: San Fernando Valley Fair, Los Angeles Equestrian Center, 480 Riverside Drive, Burbank.

Hours: Noon to 10:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Price: $5 general, free for children under 12. Parking $3.

Call: (818) 373-4500.

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