VILONIA — The audience at Vilonia Primary School on Friday night howled with laughter as four teachers bent over and puckered up, but the object of their affection, a white, potbellied pig by the name of Bella Grace, apparently, didn’t want any part of the smooching ceremony — even if it was for a good cause.
Speculation is that Bella Grace got wind that she was going to be kissed by some teachers as a part of a school fundraiser later in the day, and made a run for it "while the going was good." Near tears, PTO president Glenda Bryant, owner of Bella Grace, described the scene as "she just slipped out while we were trying to put a leash on her and she made a run for the woods by my house."
Bryant said she was devastated at the thought of her small pig, an estimated eight pounder, out in the elements. Even though she hadn’t had it long—only purchased it for $30 for the event—she didn’t want to see it hurt. She had driven to Hot Springs to purchase the piglet and been taking good care of it until the escape.
"I’m just praying they find her soon," Bryant said several times during the evening. "She’s got on a little rhinestone collar."
A guinea pig, Bryant said, was brought in and standing in the foreground as a fill in just in case there was a worst scenario. But, Bryant said, a guinea pig pinch hitting for a potbellied pig just wouldn’t fulfill anyone’s expectations. But, the students, she said, would just have to understand the fundraising efforts were the real payoff.
Bryant’s family and friends had launched an immediate search without success. Nightfall didn’t cease the efforts. Bryant’s son P.T. said there were six people with flashlights plus a dog on the hunt. Minutes before the kiss off was to take place, the search party caught a break. Bella Grace was caught and promptly delivered to the school to save the day.
On stage, four teachers Elizabeth Sowder, Kim Bartlett, Christy Newell and Kayla Roberts applied brightly covered lipstick while they waited for their turn. A couple of times, Bella Grace squealed with indignation, as the teachers persevered to get up close and personal with the pig. The teachers, after all, had made promises to kiss the pig. They were chosen due to their classes having collected the most in sales of tickets for chances to win a four-wheeler, an iPad and a gas grill.
Seven students, awarded as top sellers including Madison Gafner, David Jones, P.T. Bryant, Cade Smithhart, Elijah Ballard, Riley Newsom and Tate Smithhart, held their trophies as evidence of their hard work and they wanted to see the teachers fulfill their obligations. Some spewed and sputtered but all touched their lips to the pig.
There were several other draws to the event including a chili supper, a performance by the school’s Primary Melodies, a silent auction and an audience participation auction. Brian Ratliff, former principal at the school, who served as auctioneer, called for the attendees to show their "Vilonia Spirit" as some bid more than $100 each on specialty baskets and donated goodies. Lunch with principal Susan Loyd and assistant principal Andy Pennington also brought in some serious bucks.
One highlight for the evening was the last event, a drawing for the large ticket items. Names drawn from a barrel, Colton Watson won the four-wheeler, Logan Wilson won the gas grill and Tracy Taylor received the iPad.