Pig on the Pond will leave scholarship recipients feeling like they’re in hog heaven.
Thrilling carnival rides, delicious barbecue, and entertaining pig races will all be part of the 20th annual Pig on the Pond, which will take place March 9-11 at Waterfront Park in Clermont. But visitors who attend the popular event have the added satisfaction of knowing they are helping to provide scholarships for local high school students.
A scholarship can change the course of students’ lives, allowing them to study in other cities or countries and leading them in exciting new directions.
Breyonna Bell is living proof.
The 2013 Lake Minneola High School graduate received $10,000 from Pig on the Pond, Clermont’s longest-running and largest festival that has raised well over $1 million in scholarship money for South Lake County high school students.
For Breyonna, that money was a blessing. She earned an associate degree from Valencia Community College before transferring to the University of Central Florida. In May, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies and will pay only $5,000 in student loans. For comparison, the average college senior in Florida who graduates with a bachelor’s degree accumulates $23,456 in loan debt, according to a 2015 study conducted by the Institute for College Access and Success.
Without the scholarship money, obtaining a degree would have been financially difficult for Breyonna, who comes from a single-parent home.
“I probably would’ve attended two years of college and then went straight to the workforce because I wouldn’t have had any money to continue my education,” she says. “Pig on the Pond was kind enough to invest in my future, and because of that I’ll be able to reach my full potential.”
Breyonna is one of many success stories.
“Where these students come from and where they end up after we help them is an amazing thing to see,” says Cheryl Fishel, who serves as the event manager. “One of our students graduated from Florida State University and is now in New York City working for an accounting firm. The great thing is when these students come back to their neighborhoods and share with today’s kids how they ended up being successful.”
This year’s festival promises to be a fun-filled event, and for the first time there will be a headline act. Country singer Collin Raye, who cranked out popular hits in the 1990s such as “That’s My Story” and “Little Rock,” will perform at 4pm Saturday.
Attendees also will be treated to the highly entertaining sight of seeing pigs run and swim thanks to Lake City-based Chase’s Racing Pigs, which delight festivalgoers at fairs throughout Florida. There will be eight contests where four pigs race around an oval track and through a shallow pool of water to the finish line. The pot-bellied speedsters typically attract big crowds.
“People love watching them because they’re so cute,” Cheryl says. “When they’re not racing, the owner dresses them up and walks them around in a stroller.”
Once the oinkers have finished racing, attendees can inhale the aroma and savor the tastes as food vendors pepper their ribs and smoke their barbecue to perfection. Some of the vendors regularly compete in barbecue competitions in Florida and will provide tips, tricks, and secrets to being an expert griller.
Other highlights throughout the weekend include a chili cook-off on Friday night, a wakeboard competition on Saturday, and a kid’s zone where children can decorate cookies, have their face painted, and play basketball. And, of course, there will be carnival rides of all types for all ages.
“Pig on the Pond has so much going on that there’s something for everybody to enjoy,” Cheryl says. “Coming here and seeing what’s going on locally instills a deep sense of community pride.”
And for a few lucky applicants, the event makes their dreams of winning a scholarship and pursuing higher education a reality.
For more information about Pig on the Pond, call Cheryl at 407.625.3818 or visit pigonthepond.org.