By David Volz
As “The Fair at Margate” prepares to open its doors, bringing traditional amusement and community festivities back to the area, one particular feature has stirred a debate: pig races.
In the fall of 2021, the inclusion of monkey races at the Margate amusement fair raised eyebrows and sparked outrage.
The “Monkey Derby” shows drew crowds that saw the small primates riding atop dogs, to which the monkeys’ hands were bound. Allegations of animal abuse surfaced, painting a grim picture of the treatment of the monkeys in the name of entertainment.
In 2022, this backlash led Josh Rydell, attorney for Hildebrand Amusement Rides, Inc., and Mayor of Coconut Creek, to make a clear commitment to city commissioners that future events would not include animal acts.
Despite the previous pledge, on November 1, the Margate Commission approved a temporary use permit for a fair that surprisingly includes a nationally known pig racing act.
The announcement has divided opinions among city officials.
Commissioner Joanne Simone remains a staunch opponent, perceiving such activities as a misuse of animals. Her worries resonate with concerns over animal welfare and the ethics of using animals for entertainment, a sentiment that lingers after the monkey race debacle.
Commissioner Arlene Schwartz also voiced apprehension, wondering about the treatment of pigs that might refuse to partake in the races. Rydell, however, maintained that these four-legged athletes are treated “very well” and that abuse is not a part of their racing regime.
Pig racing, a staple at various national fairs, is where trained pigs dash around a track, with their participation often incentivized by treats at the finish line.
Advocates argue that it is a display of natural behavior, as pigs are known for their intelligence and can enjoy the stimulation of such activities.
However, the concern remains that without strict oversight, such entertainment can quickly devolve into mistreatment.
Despite these concerns, there’s an overwhelming wave of anticipation for the fair’s return. Vice Mayor Tommy Ruzzano was enthusiastic about the Fair and believed it would benefit Margate.
“The Fair At Margate” will be located at 1000 North State Road 7, and take place from Friday, November 17 through Sunday, December 3. There will be approximately 70 traditional fair rides, about 30 food vendors, and performance acts, including musicians and trapeze artists.
- David Volz has worked as a writer in South Florida for 35 years. He has written for the Sun-Sentinel, Hollywood Gazette, School Transportation News, South Dade News Leaders, Observer among others. He has an MA in Communications from Florida Atlantic University and a BA in Communications from Valparaiso University. Volz teaches Communications at Miami Dade College and Palm Beach State College. He lives in Coral Springs and enjoys running and participating in 5Ks and half-marathons.
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