Gretna, Nebraska – The excitement was palpable at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard as spectators gathered for a special event: the 10,000th pig race. This unique milestone drew crowds from near and far, with some attendees, like Crystal Wheeler, traveling two hours just to be part of the celebration.
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“We come every year from Columbus,” Wheeler shared. “We plan a day with our family and come see everything.” This sentiment echoed among many who have made the pig race at Vala’s a family tradition.
For nearly 27 years, Mark Celesky has been the charismatic figure leading these races. Known for his iconic pig call, Celesky has always had a vision for this event. “I told my family for years my idea would be to reach the 10,000 show mark with me doing the show myself,” he said. For Celesky, the races are more than just an annual spectacle; they represent a legacy of family and community connection.
Celesky’s races have created lasting memories for generations. “We’re getting the second generation coming up and saying you picked me when I was my daughter’s age and I was a pig leader and my pig won and I got a pig nose or a spider ring,” he recalled fondly.
This year’s event was particularly special due to the extra support and acknowledgment of the Celesky family’s contributions. “It has been such a blessing to witness not only the love and support my dad has been shown today at Valas, but the 20-plus years of legacy my dad has left,” said John Celesky, Mark’s son.
Vala’s has also paid tribute through attractions like “Cousin Lauren’s Racing Pigs.” This ride, introduced this year, honors Mark’s daughter, Lauren Celesky, who passed away in 2020 after a battle with cancer. “I know she’s out here with us and smiling and laughing and so proud of the legacy my dad left,” John expressed.
Looking forward, the Celesky family is excited about the future. As Vala’s approaches its 40th anniversary next year, they are planning to revamp the pig races. “The next step is getting ready for Valas’ 40th anniversary next year, so we’re hoping to do a spruce up of the pig races,” Celesky said.