For the sixth year, Ashton Seal and his family drove from Mount Airy to Raleigh to show pigs at the NC State Fair. Like any other year, they were excited to show pigs and see friends, they were also holding their breath ever so slightly. They had a dream of winning the champion banner. This was a dream they had held for years. Many show families have that dream. Perhaps it is fair to say that almost everyone who participates in showing livestock at the NC State Fair comes to the ring with bated breath, a hope filled heart, and a dream every year. And for some, that dream becomes a reality.
Ashton, the son of Codi and Sam Seal, is a 10-year-old boy who loves pigs and baseball. He plays short stop and pitcher for his White Plains baseball team and travel baseball teams. He dreams of either becoming a professional MLB player or working in the agriculture field when he grows up. Although, Ashton is only 10, somehow, we think he’ll make those dreams come true, just like he made his N.C. State Fair dreams come true.
Every State Fair, Ashton and his family hoped and dreamed of winning that champion banner. In 2017, they came ever so close by taking home third overall. Each year, Ashton learned more about feeding, training and showing pigs. No matter how his pigs did at the State Fair, he always had fun and loved showing. However, there was still that dream of winning champion.
In the summer of 2019, Ashton met the guy who would make all his dreams come true—Spot the pig. Spot came from North Carolina pig breeders, Coast to Coast Show Pigs. The Coast to Coast team not only raises quality show pigs, but they are born and raised in North Carolina, so they are Got to Be N.C. eligible. This is an important fact that we will get to later on.
From the start, Spot was special, well, at least the Seal family thought so. Ashton spent every evening down at the barn with Spot, walking him for about 30 minutes, teaching him to hold his head up and building his stamina. After Spot’s “workout”, he got a bath. While Spot dried off, Ashton would clean his pen and mix his show feed. Spot would eat his food while Ashton lotioned his skin and hair.
“Before I left and told him goodnight, Spot would always get four strawberry waffle cookies for being such a good piggy,” said Ashton.
After months of practice and preparation, it was time for the N.C. State Fair. To win the grand champion title, you have to win several “rounds” just like major sporting events. First, you must win your weight class, then you have to win your weight division (light, medium, or heavy), then you have to win overall crossbred or purebred (Spot was a crossbred), then you can compete in the overall grand champion drive.
Every time Ashton and Spot entered the ring, they did exactly what they had practiced, and each time, they won. With each win, the dream of champion coming true got closer and closer. Finally, Ashton and Spot found themselves competing against the purebred barrow for Overall Grand Champion. Spot and Ashton cruised around the ring, while so many watching held their breath.
It is an odd mix of emotions to be in the champion drive whether you are the showman, the parents, the breeder, friends, or even just a spectator. The energy is electric. You want to hope, but almost don’t dare. You want to cheer but are holding your breath. You want to pace but can’t move. Time seems to slow to a snail’s pace, but when you look back, it was just a blur. That moment of hope and anticipation is broken by a few words from the judge and a handshake, and for Ashton, this time, the words and handshake (and hug in this case) were meant for him and Spot.
The crowd erupted. The excitement was contagious, but none were more excited than the Seal family and the Coast to Coast Show Pig team who had bred Spot. And, now we come back to that all-important fact: Spot was born and bred in North Carolina. Not only that, but because he was the top hog at the N.C. State Fair, that meant he was automatically the top N.C. Born and Bred hog! Not only was Spot now a double champion, but he was the first to be awarded those top two honors. Other pigs have won both reserve and Got to Be N.C., but this was the first year that the Grand Champion was born and raised in NC.
Was the Seal family surprised?
“In a way we were a little surprised. We knew we had an awesome barrow. We just prayed every day he would hold together and that the judge would love him just as much as we did,” the Seals said.
The Seals may have been surprised, but I’m not sure that Spot was. Even as a baby pig, if you asked Spot “are you a champion?”, he would always “oink”.
Ashton and his family’s dream of winning champion was exceeded. Little did they know that it was about to be exceeded again at the Sale of Champions the following night. Selling for $26,500, Spot was the record selling hog in the history of the NC State Fair. Not only that, but he was the top-selling animal of the entire night. N.C. Pork Council, Smithfield Foods, Prestage Farms and Hog Slat Inc. purchased Spot.
It’s funny how that works. Sometimes when you dream up a dream, you are given more than you could have ever dreamed for. Of course, there is a lot of hard work and effort that goes into making that dream come true, but achieving that dream makes all the blood, sweat and tears fade away.
“Winning the NC State Fair was AWESOME! It’s a show we have strived so hard to win. There has been so many days and nights spent at our pig barn working towards this moment, and it just made all those days well-worth it. It takes a lot of hard work to make your dreams come true,” said Ashton’s mom, Codi.
They say that Disney World is where all your dreams come true, but for some, like Ashton, it’s the NC State Fair where all your dreams come true.