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11th annual running of the pigs in Nevis Sunday

The Nevis Pig Races are Sunday, July 7, with two races in the afternoon. (Enterprise file photo)

It's the Year of the Pig, according to the Chinese zodiac, and Nevis will celebrate Sunday with pig races at 1:05 p.m. and 3:05 p.m. on a track right in the middle of downtown.

The Nevis Pig Races started with an idea by Dave McCurnin who attended the pig races in Leader while he was the mayor of Nevis. He thought having pig races in Nevis would be a great way to bring more visitors to town and showcase area businesses.

Since then, the races have become a popular event that continues to grow. Thousands of spectators pack the bleachers to watch pigs racing around the track adorned in capes featuring the name of the business sponsoring them.

"We have gone from expecting maybe 300 folks at the first year, to now having two races and rented bleachers to accommodate the crowds," McCurnin said.

There are fun contests for kids between races and food vendors on site. A charity auction is held between races to raise funds for the Pam Lindow Scholarship Foundation that benefits Nevis graduates who go on to further their education.

The pigs are trained by Gary and Glenda Dauer of Leader.

"We have had two TV broadcasts from the pig races," McCurnin said. "A flash dance broke out a couple years ago, and the bride and groom race has determined who will wear the pants in the family. I usually ask folks who has come the furthest. I think last year someone was from Rome. Imagine coming that far to a town of 390 folks in northern Minnesota for a pig race."

The first pig race was held in 2008 and featured pigs racing to predict who would win the U.S. Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. Bleachers from the school were set up and local volunteers came out to help. According to information on the Nevis Chamber website, event organizers planned for 300 folks for that first race and were surprised when over 2,000 visitors showed up.

Today, bleachers are rented to accommodate 1,500 to 2,000 people and over 30 volunteers facilitate the setup, administration and clean-up of the races.