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The City Journals

Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Museum hosts its first … pig kissing

Mar 25, 2019 03:26PM ● By Carl Fauver

Valley Junior High School Principal Trent Hendricks (L) puckers up for “Moonie” the pig after his fundraising students reached their goal. (Susan Yadeskie/Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Center)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

The Juliana potbelly pig “Moonie” — short for Moonlight, because every pig needs a name and a nickname — was simply minding his own business a few weeks ago, in the barn behind the Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Center, when he was kissed, smack on the snout, by a total stranger — Valley Junior High School Principal Trent Hendricks.

The Heritage Center rents Chrissy and Holly Jones the barn pen space Moonie occupies.

There’s no official word on whether Moonie the pig wanted to be kissed … or how much he may have liked or disliked it.

But for Hendricks, a second-year principal, it was something new.

“I grew up on a farm outside Rexburg, Idaho, but I have never kissed a pig — until now,” he said. “Our students were excited to humiliate me, and I was happy to do it. Even though he had gnarly teeth—and I know I got some snot on me—I’d do it again.” 

That’s right, Moonie may not be through with Hendricks. That all depends on how successful the Valley Junior High students are during next year’s annual winter fundraiser.

“We raised $5,373 this year, which was one of Valley’s highest fundraising efforts,” Hendricks said. “We expect next year to even exceed this further.”

Over a two-week period, the students sold pizza discount cards for $5. They sold well over a thousand cards, primarily motivated by the promise that Hendricks would pig pucker if they did. 

“At first, our PTSA board members asked if I wanted to volunteer to have my head shaved if we reached our fundraising goal,” Hendricks said. “But keeping hair on my head is already a challenge, so I passed on that idea. Next thing I knew, I was promising to kiss a pig. Our wonderful PTSA moms are incredible. They came into the school to help with the fundraiser and really kept our kids motivated.”

Hendricks said it is that kind of student and parent devotion to the school — or, let’s face it, their determination he swine smooch — that has the principal so excited about what’s coming May 4.

“We are holding our 70th anniversary celebration that day, inviting Valley Junior High Alumni from all the way back to 1950 to join us,” Hendricks said. “The school just recently underwent a $3.5 million remodel; we want to show that off. We also want our current students to better understand the part they have in a long tradition.”

Valley Junior High opened in 1949. Their mascot, the liger (half lion-half tiger), came from the first-ever such animal to be born in captivity the previous year at Salt Lake’s Hogle Zoo.

“We teach our students a lesson about Shasta the Liger,” Hendricks said. “We connect it to our kids because they are diverse just like Shasta’s parents were, but they came together to create something strong.”

Hendricks noted, his school and the entire Granite School District is now “minority-majority,” because they have more Hispanic students and other minorities than they do white students.

Shasta, by the way, lived at Hogle Zoo 24 years, and remained at the zoo — after taxidermists were done with her — another 25 years. She’s now on display at the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum at Brigham Young University.

Valley Junior High’s 70th anniversary celebration will run from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on that first Saturday in May. As a primary sponsor of the event, Comcast is helping to coordinate it and will provide T-shirts and meals.

“I am going to try to get to the anniversary celebration,” said Taylorsville Historic Preservation Committee Chairwoman Susan Yadeskie, who was a proud graduating Liger back in 1968. “I think it is great they are marking their 70th anniversary. We are also thrilled they thought of our museum when it came time to find a kissable pig.”

The annual onslaught of youngsters visiting the Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Museum is also set to begin this month, as many Granite School District students take field trips to the site.

“We usually host about 1,100 to 1,500 students each year on 10 to 12 field trips,” Historic Preservation Committee member Joan White said. “The county’s Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) Committee continues to allocate $3,500 to us each year to cover bus costs. So, it’s essentially a free field trip for the school district. It’s a fun tradition.”

The Historic Preservation Committee has doubled in size over the past year, from six active members to a dozen. Yadeskie credits part of that growth to the added exposure the museum is now receiving, through former committee chairwoman Connie Taney’s work on its Facebook page, where historic photos are being gathered, cataloged and preserved.

Among the new committee members is Wendy Cochran, wife of Taylorsville City Councilman Curt Cochran. 

“The museum is such an important part of our heritage and does so many good things for Granite District school kids through their annual field trip program,” Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson said. “Hundreds of kids visit every spring, and many of them bring their families back. It is incredible, invaluable exposure for our museum and city.”

The museum’s newest fan is the pig-kissing Hendricks.

“I was so glad to tour the museum and visit the dairy after kissing the pig,” he said. “While looking through the old farmhouse, they dug out a booklet for me to look at, all about Valley Junior High. It was a wonderful visit.”