LEADER, Minn. (WCCO) — Leader, Minnesota isn’t an area known as a quiet cabin destination.
This north central town has a reputation for its night life.
“We have a population of seven people here in Leader, Minnesota, and for some reason, it brings people out,” said Gary Dauer, owner of The Bears Den.
Visitors make a point to stop by the one neighborhood bar to see a popular weekend show known as the LA (Leader Area) Pig Races.
“You can’t find this in the Cities,” said spectator Mandy Linn. “You got to go north for something like this.”
Every Friday and Saturday night in the summer months, the pig races bring in crowds of up to 500 people.
Visitors pay $3 to watch five to six piglets race around a set course.
Each pig is identified with a color, and members of the crowd pick a corresponding pig-shaped paddle. If that color wins, the audience member gets a prize.
“You never know which one’s going to win,” Dauer said.
Dauer started the race 17 years ago after seeing a similar event in Montana.
“It was an instant hit and the reason it was a hit was because of the families and the kids and the entertainment for the family,” Dauer said.
Part of the success is the emphasis on crowd participation. The pigs aren’t the only ones competing for a prize.
Dauer incorporates the crowd into several different events, like a bubble gum chewing contest and a bouncy horse race. He never has difficulty recruiting willing participants who set aside any inhibition for the contests. Competitors give it their all for the coveted prize of a T-shirt.
“It’s funny, you just have to be comfortable doing it,” said Alex Wachlin, who won a bubble gum blowing contest and the bouncy horse race. “I got a couple of T-shirts for winning.”
Adults aren’t the only ones getting in on the act. Gary has several competitions for kids in the audience which include a hula hoop contest and a bouncy ball race.
“That’s my job to entertain the people,” Dauer said.
Despite the competition, the emphasis is not on victory or defeat rather making sure one of Minnesota’s smallest towns delivers big on entertainment.
“Seeing them walk away and say we had the best time we’ve ever had and when I hear that, it keeps this energy of mine going to make me want to do this,” Dauer said.
The LA Pig Races begin at 7 p.m. every Friday and Saturday through Labor Day. Admission is $3.
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