Children caught pigs in the annual pig scramble at the Woodside junior rodeo on Monday, July 4, but it was not the spectacle of years past, according to the man who manages the rodeo.
Also new this year: people with signs out in front of the grounds of the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County to protest an event in which children chase pigs around a dusty arena and drag them back to a judge for a ribbon.
Except there was reportedly no dragging. In "a big change" in the instructions this year, children who caught a pig were told to wait for an older person to walk over, gently pick up the pig and carry it back to its trailer, rodeo chair Michael Raynor said.
Anyone who dragged a pig was disqualified, he said. And the scramble event for adults was out.
The pig squealing was reduced this year and the pigs were "a lot less stressed" than in the past, Mr. Raynor said in an interview. When they were returned to their trailer, the pigs did not back themselves into a corner, an indication of stress, but immediately returned to eating and drinking and exchanging grunts with their cohorts, he said.
The pigs this year and in 2015 were also categorically of a different type, being raised in the open and used to running around. "They're out in the pasture. They run all the time," Mr. Raynor said. "They've very adept at dodging and moving around."
"If you go up to them slowly, they're curious and they're a lot easier to catch," he said.
The pig scramble is also under different management. "I like people that love their animals," Mr. Raynor said.
While the children were well behaved, three parents were told to leave the arena because they weren't being gentle with the pigs, Mr. Raynor said.
A group protested the event, holding up signs in support of compassion and kindness. "Sixteen of us were there, with our signs and fliers," said Woodside resident Belle Stafford. "We got lots of support and definitely increased awareness about the pig scramble event. We are hopeful about ending it."
"I was impressed with Michael Raynor, head of the rodeo, who came out to bring us all water, stayed to talk, and promised to meet with us," said Menlo Park resident Susan Wyle. "He was open to discussing alternatives to the pig scramble."
Asked about that, Mr. Raynor acknowledged his presence with the protesters. "Eventually, things like (this) aren't going to be politically favorable anymore," he said. "I kind of see it as an old-fashioned thing. It just makes you think of the legacy of it."
"It's a very strongly held tradition," he added. "It's a signature event. A lot of people come to do that."
Related story: Woodside Town Council hears debate on pig scramble.