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Horsedrawn auction draws thousands

35th annual event, at Jefferson County Fairgrounds


by: HOLLY M. GILL - Lynn Miller (with microphone), organizer of the auction and swap meet, takes bids for wagon tongues on April 19, at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.Farming with the power of animals was celebrated April 17-20, when thousands converged on Madras for the 35th annual Small Farmer's Journal Horsedrawn Auction and Swap at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

Organizer Lynn Miller, who publishes the Small Farmer's Journal, estimated that attendance over the four-day event was about 3,500, down slightly from last year, with about 650 bidders bidding on approximately 3,700 items.

"We didn't get done until 6 or 7 o'clock on Saturday," said Miller. "We had two auctioneers and two selling rings, probably half the time."

Besides the 115 horse-drawn wagons sold, the auctions also featured new equipment from Amish businesses in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

"We had one new plow, one new mower, and a ground-drive forecart," he said, explaining that the power shaft in the forecart gives farmers the ability to power balers, rakes and other equipment with horses.

The event drew farmers or potential farmers from across the country, from Alaska to the East Coast, and even several provinces in Canada.

"We had people from most every Western state," said Miller. "One truck drove out from Wisconsin, a woman flew out from North Carolina, and we had a couple that flew in from France and worked the entire week volunteering."

"The prices were down, because of the lingering recession, but people had a very good time, and all in all, I'd have to characterize it as a success," he said, adding that one volume buyer bought a dozen carriages for his museum in California.

Ed Charest, a retired farmer and correctional officer from Alberta, Canada, has been driving down to Madras for the auction and swap meet for the past five years.

"For me, it's a very social thing," he said, noting that he and his wife meet friends at the event. "It's kind of like a little holiday."

Charest had spotted at least eight others "from back home" who had made the two-day drive to Madras.

"I love Madras," he said. "It's that old-time atmosphere; it's a very friendly community."

Artist Bonnie Shields, of Sandpoint, Idaho, known as the "Tennessee mule artist," was among an estimated 75 vendors at the auction, which she has attended for the past 15-20 years.

"I love the people," said Shields, who has a 20-acre farm with five mules and a donkey back in Idaho. "I love the farm lifestyle. We consider this our spring coming out party for all us rural people."

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Bobbi Meritt, of Sisters, ties alpaca bouclé yarn onto a loom at her booth at the event.First-timer Bobbi Meritt, of Sisters, who owns the Desert Charm shop there, brought a loom to demonstrate how to make a scarf with alpaca yarn.

"I've been really impressed with the number of people going through and the number of classes," she said. "There are quite a few young people getting ideas about what they could do in agriculture."

Meritt and others plan to return to Madras for next year's event which will be April 23-26, 2014, at the fairgrounds.

"We are so happy to have the event in Madras," said Miller, who lives in southwestern Jefferson County, about 10 miles east of Camp Sherman, and started the event 35 years ago in Albany.

"We've found a home," he said. "The community is very supportive; the hospitality has been outstanding. Hundreds, if not thousands of people over these last few years have fallen in love with Madras."



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