Fair honors Granite Falls couple, but piglets hog limelight

Children crowd around. The littlest ones climb up on hay bales for a better view. A few get into the pen to gently pet a piglet.

“Everybody likes the babies,” said Ed Miller, 64, who shows up year after year with one of the Evergreen State Fair’s most crowd-pleasing attractions.

This year’s baby pigs — “five boys, four girls,” Miller said — were born Aug. 13, just 14 days before the fair opened Thursday in Monroe. They’ll spend much of their time at the fair being suckled by their mama, a sow named Rosie.

By lunchtime opening day, Miller’s pigpen just inside the Swine Barn was surrounded by people. With a little piggy in arms, the Granite Falls man was patient as he posed for cellphone pictures and answered questions.

“Ed always makes sure we have a litter for the fair. He does a fabulous job,” said his wife, Vicki Miller.

This fair season, the Millers are being recognized in a big way. Ed and Vicki Miller are the 2015 Evergreen State Fair Honorees. They were chosen in March by a unanimous vote of the fair advisory board, and were honored on opening day.

“Ed and Vicki are real diamonds for us out here. They’re very special,” said Rick Merrill, vice chairman of the fair advisory board and an Everett attorney. “A couple of my kids had Ed as a 4-H leader year ago. They’re very nice people, and do everything they can for us out at the fair.”

Vicki Miller said Friday that opening-day festivities included a luncheon, where they were given a plaque, and “we cut the ribbon with big scissors.”

With his piglet display and big crowds, Ed Miller is a rock star at the fair. His wife is also a tireless volunteer through 4-H. Vicki Miller, 65, is assistant superintendent in the 4-H Plant and Soil Science Department. She has judged baked goods, and has been a competitor herself. A couple years ago she won a blue ribbon with her chocolate-zucchini cake. “I like to bake,” she said.

For nearly 20 years a food service employee with the Granite Falls School District, she also created a display showing the amount of sugar in different candy bars, soda, and other popular foods.

The couple are proud of their daughter Jenny Miller, who works for a biotechnology company but stays involved at the fair as superintendent of the 4-H Plant and Soil Science Department. It was Jenny, 35, who nominated her parents as fair honorees.

In her nomination letter, she wrote that their involvement began as “active 4-H parents of their kids, Jenny and Joey.” Vicki Miller recalled her children showing their German shepherds, and later their pigs.

Jenny wrote that her parents’ enthusiasm spread to other areas of 4-H, Future Farmers of America, and the fair experience as a whole. She wrote that during the fair’s 12-day run, her father sits in the Swine Barn “from the time the fair opens till closing time, holding a baby pig. … He enjoys nothing more than the wonder of a young person petting a piglet for the first time.”

Along with pigs, the Millers have raised goats, chickens and ducks on their 6-acre Waite Mill Farm, named for the road where they live. Vicki Miller works as a hair stylist at Verease’s Hairway 92 in Granite Falls.

Ed Miller makes sure that his one breeding sow has baby pigs by fair time each year. Once, his wife said, the babies weren’t born in time. A webcam was set up at the fair for “pig watch.” Even with just the expectant sow, he said, people lined up “to feel the mom’s tummy.”

The family endured a tragedy in 2006, when Jenny’s brother Joe Miller died in a car accident. “He was also very involved in 4-H. He showed dogs and pigs, and also helped out at the fair,” Jenny said. She remembered the family first bringing a piglet litter to the fair about 20 years ago. “I was probably 15,” she said.

Today, she and her mother work to keep things running smoothly in the 4-H building. “She helps me out so much in my department,” Jenny said. “She cooks for all the judges and makes sure there’s fresh coffee.”

Children involved in plant and soil science 4-H groups call her “Miss Vicki,” Jenny added. “All our garden kids, they love my mom.”

“Once you get involved it just escalates,” Vicki Miller said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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