Auction returns to fairgrounds


Thousands attend four-day event

by: JEFF WILSON - Auctioneer George Tavera, of Gaston, takes bids on a wagon during Saturday's sale at the annual Small Farmers Journal Auction and Swap at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. For farmers who wanted to buy or sell horse-drawn equipment, the Jefferson County Fairgrounds was the place to be last weekend.

From April 24-27, farmers from as far away as New Zealand converged in Madras for the annual Small Farmers Journal Horsedrawn Auction and Swap.

Organizer Lynn Miller, of southwestern Jefferson County, moved the event to the fairgrounds in 2009, 30 years after he started the event in the Willamette Valley.

For the 36th annual event, Miller estimated that there were 3,500-4,000 in attendance over the four-day event, and a total of 3,100 items sold, up from 2,400 at last year's auction. However, this year, there were only 600 bidders, compared to 800 last year.

"The high selling item this year was the 1860 Rockaway carriage, with double glass," said Miller. "It went for $22,000 to a private collection in Northern California."

Overall, he said, "Prices were a little soft this year in almost every category."

But there were bright spots. "A 200 pound blacksmith’s anvil sold for $900," said Miller. "I had estimated that it might bring $400."

Visitors this year came from as far away as New Zealand, Canada, and the East Coast.

James Berge, of Glendale, Md., came with his father, Howard Berge, to check out the sales. Berge said his mother was a granddaughter of the Ramseys, who homesteaded in Jefferson County, so he travels cross country to the event "so I can visit with family."

by: HOLLY M. GILL - First-time visitor Mario Ciucci, of Carson City, Nev., left, talks with longtime volunteer Brit McLin, of Silt, Colo., at Thursday's auction.Brit McLin, of Silt, Colo., has been helping Miller with the show since 1981, when he showed up for the event at the Lane County Fairgrounds.

"(Miller's) brother was trying to set it up with no help," said McLin, who volunteered to help and has returned to help out every year since then.

Even though McLin's grandfather, Lee B. Cockrum, farmed mint in the Madras area, he had never visited Madras until the event was moved to the fairgrounds in 2009.

"We've been very pleased," he said. "Madras has been very welcoming as a community."

First-time visitor to the event, Mario Ciucci, of Carson City, Nev., came to Madras on a mission. "A dear friend of mine passed away," said Ciucci. "He had a lot of stuff the familly wanted to get rid of — about 100 sets of harnesses."

Ciucci packed up a trailer full of the harnesses and brought them up to sell, and plans to return next year to sell more for his friend's family.

"This is a wonderful deal (Miller) put together," said Ciucci. "I've been to sales like this before, but nothing of this size. He's got a clientele from all over the world."

Al Steinke, of Carlton, a retired plumber, has been attending the event since 1984, and enjoys reuniting with friends he's made over the years.

by: SUSAN MATHENY - A crowd gathers on Friday waiting for the horse-drawn farm implements sale at the Small Farmers Journal auction."It's a hobby for me and my sons," said Steinke, who participates in plowing competitions in the Willamette Valley. "After a while, you get about everything here."

Even though the event went smoothly this year, Miller said there was a troubling development. "We had several thefts, something we had not experienced in 35 years; we had a four-wheeler stolen off the back of someone’s camp trailer, and some other things from the vendors." Calling the thefts "the one cloud over the event," Miller said the event was very successful.

"We are just thrilled with the reception we have gotten every year from the city of Madras," he said.