Bacon Buddies®

Creating connections

Bacon Buddies® gives individuals who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (Buddies) the opportunity to take a pig into the show ring. Their mentors include 4-H and FFA youth who have volunteered to share that show ring experience right along with them.

Join us at the Iowa State Fair!

Bacon Buddies® will return to the Swine Barn show ring for a fifth year in August 2024.

Plan your own show

We invite YOU to create this same opportunity locally! Below you'll find everything you need to successfully host a Bacon Buddies® event at your county fair.

Getting started

Tips and tricks for Bacon Buddies® show organizers.

Download this page as a Microsoft Word file

Keys for a successful event:

  • Be flexible! It is ok if things don’t go 100% as planned, be prepared to make changes on the fly
  • Be patient with participants and pigs!
  • Be supportive of reactions of the participants (many of them this might be their first time around a pig).
  • Be cognizant of sensory sensitivity (noises, space, lighting, crowds, cameras, pigs, water, shavings).
  • This is an experience; everyone is a winner! All Buddies should receive the same prize for their participation.



  • Space. Make-up ring, show ring, area for participants to collect ribbons after they exit the show ring. Allows for parent/guardian to reunite with Buddies, and pig owner to locate and put away pig.
  • Show equipment. Show sticks, brushes, spray bottles, sorting board, etc. Who provides these? Are they borrowed from pig owner or the mentor?
  • T-shirts (if provided). Consider making T-shirts different based on involvement (buddy, youth mentor, volunteer).

Things to consider:

  • Have audience (i.e. “fan zone”) located where participants exit the show ring. This provides encouragement, high-fives, congratulations, etc. as participants make their way to the designated space where parents/guardians reunite with Buddies.
  • Creating name tags for those involved.
  • Photo backdrop availability and location approximate to show ring.

Analyze your event (location, facilities, parking, audience, and support)

Checklist and things to consider:

  • Event location. Is it handicap accessible? Are there bathrooms nearby? Consider comfort for participants and audience.
  • Timeframe of event. Consider time of day, temperature, traffic to venue, audience support.
  • Parking. Is it close to the location of the event for participants not familiar with area? Consider handicap parking accessibility.
  • Admission. Is there admission to the event or fair? Who covers the cost for participants?

Identifying Buddies (Special Olympics Iowa athletes)

Checklist and things to consider:

  • Highly suggest working with an organized group (ex.: Special Olympics, local school district, etc.) to identify “Buddies.” Recommend contacting John Kliegl, Special Olympics Iowa Director of Regional Field Services. Parental or guardian consent is required

Identifying Youth Mentors (4-H and/or FFA)

Checklist and things to consider:

  • Select Mentors with high moral regard, appropriate maturity level and/or age.
  • Mentors are not required to have swine exhibits. Swine exhibits can be used from another showman.
  • Mentor should be calm, patient, encouraging, and can adapt to different situations.

Identifying Volunteers

Checklist and things to consider:

Volunteer tasks

  • Distributing T-shirts
  • Help moving pigs from pens to the make-up area/show ring
  • One to two in the make-up ring to assist exhibitors (a sorting board may be helpful)
  • Two to three volunteers in the show ring to assist if necessary (a sorting board may be helpful)
  • Two volunteers should be present on the exiting side of the show ring to help participants make their way out
  • Two volunteers to assist with photos after the participants exit the show ring (with awards, Buddies, and Mentors)

Volunteer Selection

  • Kind and patient
  • Passionate about kids and pigs
  • Flexibility and willingness to help wherever the need arises during event
  • Must be available through entire event
  • Volunteers should be identified and notified of their role prior to the event

Selection of judge/emcee

Things to consider:

  • Kind, compassionate, patient, sensitive to situations
  • Ability to read people and situations (participants that are nervous, shy, or don’t want to talk into a microphone, etc.)
  • Ability to think/adjust on the fly
  • Charismatic on microphone
  • Aware of the importance of the event


Checklist and things to consider:

  • Will the pigs be used in other shows throughout the event, either the day(s) prior or after?
  • Pigs should be calm and have adequate level of training
  • Whose pigs will be used for the event? Are 4-H or FFA pigs already on-site?

Class size and duration

Checklist and things to consider:

  • No matter the show ring size, we suggest no more than four or five “teams” in a class. This allows the participants to stay engaged.
  • We suggest the entire “show” should last no longer than an hour.

Public relations

Checklist and things to consider:

  • Photography and/or videography.
  • Advertising. Use hashtag #BaconBuddies to showcase your event on social media.
  • Consider social media, print, radio, television.
  • Media requests—Before, day of, during, and after event.


Checklist and things to consider:

  • Participant awards (ribbons for all Buddies)
  • T-shirts
  • Photo backdrop
  • Meal/refreshments/snacks

Logo/brand guidelines

Bucks for Bacon Buddies® provides up to $500 for county organizations/fair boards that are hosting a show. Logos will be provided after submitting the Bucks for Bacon Buddies® & logo usage agreement, and agreeing to adhere to the Bacon Buddies® Brand Standards.

Contact us

Staff at Iowa Pork Producers Association

Joyce Hoppes
Consumer Information Director
(515) 225-7675
Addison Randall (starting June 10)
Program & Event Manager
(515) 225-7675


Other resources

Jen Cannon
Iowa State Fair Competitive Events Director
(515) 401-1545
Dr. Jodie Sterle, Ph. D.
Iowa State Fair 4-H Swine Superintendent
(979) 294-3161
John Kliegl
Special Olympics Iowa President and CEO
(515) 986-5520, ext. 103