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Fair posts record auctions
By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
Moments after learning she would pocket more than $1,000 following the sale Saturday of her grand champion lamb Louis, 13-year-old Katie Rowan could only sing her lamb's praises.
"I knew he'd be a top 10, but I had no idea he'd finish this high," she said of her lamb, named to honor France's King Louis XIV and his regal bearing. "His niceness really paid off. I only had to do half the work with him because we worked so well together."
Rowan said she plans to pocket Louis' proceeds to pay for college.
Louis ended up leading the group of 65 lambs to a record sale average of $3.85 per pound, said Deb Riggs of the Oregon State University Extension Service. Last year, 77 sheep sold for an average of $2.66 per pound.
The 31 steers sold Saturday fetched an average of $1.07 per pound, exactly what they got in 2001. Three goats were sold at $4 per pound, up 50 cents over the previous year, while 53 hogs were sold at an average of $2.38 per pound, up 39 cents per pound over the previous year.
The steers brought their young owners a total of $39,503.23, minus the three percent sales commission. The hogs brought in $31,073.15, with the lambs close behind at $30,410.75. The three goats garnered $839, bringing the auction total to $101,826.13.
Sellers made an extra penny per pound courtesy of WSI, a Simplot subsidiary. That benefit brought in an extra $581.48 for Saturday's sellers.
A lamb donated to benefit the Hilary Bonn fund sold for $14.50 per pound. Rob Ellingson and Rod McCullough went together to pay $1,537 for the 106-pound lamb. The money will be used to help offset Bonn's medical expenses.
A cadre of politicians, from State Senator Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, to County Commission Chairincumbent Brian Cole and challenger Fred Warner Jr. helped to drive prices in their role as auction assistants. At one point, Cole and Warner were working the arena in tandem.
Samantha Wendt, of the North Powder FFA program, could legitimately claim the title "queen of the fair" after landing grand champion titles in overall showmanship and beef showmanship and reserve grand champion honors in sheep showmanship. Wendt's 1,234 pound Hereford/Angus steer brought in $1.40 per pound from Intermountain Livestock, the successful bidder.
Wendt said she broke her steer to lead by inadvertently running him into a fencepost.
"After that, I could walk him just fine," she said.
Wendt, a high school graduate, plans to work for a year before attending college. She said she plans to use the money she made at the sale to help pay for tuition.
"She had one heck of a fair," said her FFA advisor, Tom Ayres.
As the 152 animals were being sold by auctioneers Gary Sparks of Nyssa and Brendan Scott of Vale, 4-H and FFA members passed the hours in a variety of ways. Some brushed their animals; others played cards or sat on benches chatting under the shade of tents rented for the fair.
Andrew Walker said he had just one thing on his mind right before his 129-pound sheep sold for $3 per pound: the money he was about to make.
"You just can't get attached to sheep," he said. "They're frustrating and really stupid."
His friend, Clayton Kezerle, added that his lamb "constantly interrupted my breakfast. I always had to go out to feed him first."
But all those minor irritations took a back seat as the sale proceeded. Sheep Superintendent Karla Price credited both hard work by her group of volunteers and a willingness by the participants to stay organized and be ready for the success of the sheep portion of the auction.
And about those tears that are inevitably shed by younger exhibitors after their animal is sold?
"Those are real tears for the first year kids," Price said. "The older kids understand that it's part of the business but they're still emotional, too."