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Longtime Rambling River Center coordinator wins Kiss the Pig contest

After nearly 20 years of running the Dew Days Kiss the Pig contest, Missie Kohlbeck found herself on the other end of the snout this time around. She joins her husband, Jason, as the only couple to kiss the pig in the contest’s history.

After 18 years of hosting one of Farmington’s most popular Dew Days events, Missie Kohlbeck herself was chosen to kiss a pig on Saturday.

Rambling River Center supervisor for nearly 19 years, Kohlbeck started a new role as recreation supervisor for the city of Farmington earlier this year. Her replacement, Nicole Gorman, naturally was put in charge of this year’s kiss the pig fundraiser event.

When Gorman asked Kohlbeck to be one of the contestants, well, it surprised Kohlbeck just a little.

“It kind of blindsided me a little bit,” Kohlbeck said Monday. “I just didn’t see it coming. But of course I couldn’t say no. I love the Rambling River Center. Of course I’m happy to be asked.”

Over the past few weeks, she watched the cans around town, just like any Kiss the Pig candidate does. She’d see lots of dollars stuffed in cans for other candidates, but thought she was getting by without as many donations as the others.

She was wrong.

Looking back, she suspects there might have been a little extra push from the folks at Farmington City Hall. She found out later that her recreation specialist predecessor, Kellee Omlid, sent a check up from Iowa. She even had a friend tell her he put an extra 47 cents in her can at the last minute, just in case.

But she suspects much of her support came from the members at Rambling River Center, as well.

“I think there were quite a few senior center members who wanted to see me win,” she said.

Kissing the pig

Kohlbeck was such a good sport that she actually kissed the pig, Forrest, three times Saturday evening. Forrest’s pen was placed on the ground, so it was hard to see when she kissed the pot belly pig. Just to make sure there were pictures to prove she did kiss a pig, Kohlbeck puckered up three times.

It wasn’t so bad, though, she said.

“Forrest was a cute little pig. We’ve had some really big, scary pigs in the past, so Forrest was relatively small compared to some of those others,” she said.

Kohlbeck introduced Kiss the Pig to Farmington in her first year with the city. She found the idea in a Salvation Army publication and decided it might make a good fundraiser for the city’s senior center.

She found pigs to kiss from local farmers. Some were small and cute little piglets, others were large, loud pigs. And one pig died just before the event, so the winner had to kiss a puppy that year.

Somehow, Kiss the Pig has become a staple to Farmington’s city celebrations. Now, Kohlbeck looks back and marvels at all of the support the event has received, from both the people who stuff the cans with change and those who step forward to be a contestant each year.

“When I talk about 19 years for Kiss the Pig, and there’s five people doing it every year, that’s almost 100 people,” she said. “That’s a lot of people willing to do that. And there are the business owners who are willing to let us take up space on their countertops, and all the people who give their money, that’s really nice, too. Farmington is good to Rambling River Center.”

Among those nearly 100 contestants is Kohlbeck’s husband, Jason, a high school teacher who was chosen to kiss the pig back in 2008.

“In all of those years, we’re the only pig kissing couple,” she said, “so I don’t know what that says about us.”

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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