Myakka's Pork Chop Revue will be a featured attraction at the Manatee County Fair.
With a few short commands, Myakka City’s Les Kimes watched his 750-pound pig, Mac, turn himself in a circle with his two front legs planted on a stool.
Kimes then asked him to wave, and Mac raised his left front foot and held it there for a few minutes while Kimes turned and waved himself.
The wave is a crowd pleaser whenever Kimes and Mac, along with Kimes’ other five pigs, perform in the Pork Chop Revue, which will make its first appearance at the Manatee County Fair this month.
The fair runs Jan. 14-24.
The Pork Chop Revue also features its pigs doing stunts such as jumping hurdles and pushing a baby in a stroller.
Kimes said the performance at the fair will also feature a few surprises.
“This is our home county, so we’re excited about performing over here,” Kimes said. “We wanted to play the fair for a long time, and it just never worked out.”
Being in the Pork Chop Revue runs in the family. Kimes’ father, Boyd, started the show in 1956 after he began participating in circuses, fairs and festivals. He had just returned after serving in the Navy during World War II.
Kimes said his father always had a rapport with animals.
“He had trained groundhogs, foxes and dogs,” Kimes said. “My dad was a big man. I’m a big guy, but my dad was way bigger than me. It was Uncle Heavy and the Pork Chop Revue. We just saw a niche and saw that it was different and unique.”
Kimes started working with the pigs in the show at 3 years old.
“I’ve done a lot of circus work in my life as a young man, and my friends would be the tiger trainer, the high wire walker and the flying trapeze,” Kimes said. “I was kind of always an odd man out with my act.”
His adult sons, Logan and Morgan, joined the show as well. The most recent family member added to the Pork Chop Revue is Kimes’ grandson, Nino.
“My dad actually passed in 1979, so I just pretty much took over the reins,” Kimes said. “It’s always been a way of life for me. It’s like most people get up, and they go to work; my work and my life is set around these animals before anybody else. They’re No. 1. They’ve always taken care of me, and I take care of them.”
In 2021, the Pork Chop Revue will celebrate its 65th anniversary.
“It’s an unusual way to make a living, but you get to see a lot of places and meet a lot of interesting people,” Kimes said. “We’ve been to every state except Alaska.”
Kimes gets the pigs when they are babies and cares for them their entire lives, which is an average of 10 years. Kimes said he had one pig live to be 15 years old.
“I like to say these piggies never go off to market,” he said.
He said training a pig isn’t as difficult as one might think because they’re intelligent animals. Although some pigs can be stubborn and learn a little slower than others, Kimes said pigs learn fast and each have their own personalities.
“Once you take the time to train them, they usually pretty much do what they’re supposed to do, and you don’t have to keep training them,” Kimes said.
The Pork Chop Revue went on “America’s Got Talent” in 2020 and made it to the quarter finals before being eliminated.
“You’re nervous [on the show],” Kimes said. “There are a lot of stars you’re seeing for the first time, and you’re up on the big stage for the competition. It’s nerve-wracking.”