Fam­ily Pig Party

When you can’t leave the farm, the va­ca­tion comes home.

Farm & Ranch Living - - NEWS - BY BETH M. HOWARD

When you can’t leave the farm, you bring the va­ca­tion home.

It started 40 years ago, when two broth­ers, Den­nis and Doug Seyb, in­vited a few friends over to their 1,000acre farm in south­east­ern Iowa for a La­bor Day week­end fish fry. Den­nis loved to fish and was look­ing for a way to share his catch of bluegill from the farm’s ponds. The broth­ers bought a few cases of beer, set up some lawn chairs, and a tra­di­tion was born.

The fol­low­ing year they in­vited a few more friends, who brought friends them­selves, and the Seyb broth­ers started think­ing: With this grow­ing crowd, why not roast a pig? Af­ter all, they had hogs on their farm. From that point on, the Seyb Fam­ily An­nual Pig Party be­came of­fi­cial. They even have T-shirts made, and each year they fea­ture a new pig-themed de­sign. A lo­cal am­bu­lance driver who moon­lights as an artist has helped with the de­sign for years.

Be­cause live­stock farm­ers can never leave their an­i­mals—which means for­go­ing va­ca­tions—Den­nis and Doug de­cided to turn the pig

roast into a short “stay­ca­tion” for them­selves and ex­panded the week­end’s fes­tiv­i­ties, along with the guest list. Friends and rel­a­tives from Ok­la­homa, Wis­con­sin, Chicago, Penn­syl­va­nia, Canada and even Switzer­land come to spend time with the Seyb broth­ers. I’ve had fun be­ing a part of it for five years.

The pig party now starts Fri­day night with a sup­per of pork loin sand­wiches for the early ar­rivals. (Guests park RVs next to Doug’s barn or sleep in “the bunkhouse,” the old fam­ily home next door.) Satur­day in­cludes a day­long float trip down the Des Moines River, with 20 kayaks, ca­noes and in­ner tubes all roped to­gether in one big mov­ing pic­nic, as the cur­rent car­ries every­one and their snacks down­stream. Satur­day night, the group gath­ers at the home of Den­nis and his wife, Liza Al­ton, for a fish fry, a nod to the pig roast’s ori­gin.

On Sun­day, Doug gets up be­fore dawn to fire up the roaster, and I hold a pie class start­ing at around 10 a.m. to guide a dozen or more party guests through the bak­ing process, re­sult­ing in a smor­gas­bord of pies to serve at the evening’s big event. Liza has her hands in many of the week­end’s de­tails—she rounds up the pig-themed dec­o­ra­tions, helps make pies and spear­heads the cre­ation of new T-shirts.

The crowd starts to gather by 3 p.m. Guests bring their own lawn chairs, cool­ers and a dish to share. The gra­nary, which Doug pow­er­washes and lines with tem­po­rary

food shelves, is filled with slow cook­ers and cheesy casseroles, ap­pe­tiz­ers, sal­ads, home­made bread, bar­be­cue sauce, brown­ies and “berry-li­cious,” a farm-fa­mous dessert made of whipped cream and berries. A buf­fet the length of a semi gets over­crowded, but enough space is al­ways re­served for the heap­ing trays of roast pork.

When the pig is off the roaster it’s heaved onto a huge slab of ply­wood sup­ported by sawhorses. A team of vol­un­teers in aprons and rub­ber gloves gets to carv­ing while both guests and dogs hover around, hop­ing to get some juicy scraps.

Par­ty­go­ers, dressed in shorts or over­alls, stream in faster and faster, and the gravel road is lined with cars on both sides. They know the food is served at 6 p.m. and the band plays at 7. Folk mu­si­cians strum their ban­jos and play their fid­dles on the porch while fam­i­lies dine around pic­nic tables and kids run around wav­ing sparklers or play­ing tag, corn­hole or vol­ley­ball. The whole scene looks like a minia­ture county fair.

The party used to stretch well past mid­night and the beer kegs would run dry, but that’s changed a bit, too. Most lo­cal guests leave by 10 p.m. these days. But don’t let the early night fool you: There will be no stop­ping the stay­ca­tion tra­di­tion. The Seybs—along with their chil­dren and a grow­ing num­ber of grand­chil­dren—plan to keep it go­ing for at least an­other 40 years. That’s go­ing to be a lot of T-shirts.

MR. FRIENDLY, one of the farm goats, greets cu­ri­ous young mem­bers of the Seyb fam­ily.

FAM­ILY AND FRIENDS RE­LAX at sun­set. The ca­noes in the back are still dry­ing out from the pre­vi­ous day’s float trip.

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