With energy and anticipation in the air, and genuine gratitude in their smiles, 4-Hers and FFA members filed into the show barn on the last day of the Jefferson County Fair. Their hands outstretched to the community members who came out to buy the projects they had worked with all year. The kids wanted to say thank you for coming before the bidding began.
This year, the Jefferson County Fair auction brought in more than $600,000 in just a few hours. Last year, the number was upwards of $500,000, making the Jefferson County Fair auction one of the top three grossing fair auctions in the state, according to Kristina Gomes, the Jefferson County Livestock Association treasurer, who has been working the auction for over 15 years. She said there is something about the community of Jefferson County that wants to help the kids — and business owners along with private citizens are invested in the fair here.
"We all work together and we are a tight-knit community," Gomes said.
Those handshakes and thank-yous go a long way, according to Gomes. In fact, it is one of the most important parts of the whole deal, a genuine thank you to a community that supports them.
The auction is a big part of the fair each year and preparations begin a couple of months before the exhibitors show up on the grounds that week for their final weigh-ins. The Jefferson County Livestock Association has a committee that plans and prepares for the event each year, with about 15 people. When auction night rolls around, Gomes said there are about six of them out there running things, many of whom are on the board of the association.
Remaining the same is what Gomes credits much of the success of the auction to. She said this sale has been ran the same way for the last 20-30 years, which she thinks is a good thing, providing consistency. She said they must be doing something right because, dollar wise, the numbers go up each year.
Gomes credits much of the auction's annual success to the community members who show up to buy the animals. It's more than just buyers showing up once to purchase an animal and then you never see them again, she said, the buyers show up year after year.
"I think it's a circle and that's why I do it," she said, explaining that many of the buyers now were either there buying the animals she showed when she was young or were kids at fair at one point in time.
The auction is special, there is no doubt about it, and Gomes said that while larger auctions like Deschutes County can sell more animals, they don't generally make the money Jefferson makes. She said people are invested in this fair, this auction and these kids.
"That's just what we do in Jefferson County," Gomes said.
Gomes did say that it can be a little hard to compare the auctions since each one is usually ran by a different entity in each county.
Above everything else, though, Gomes said the importance of the fair, the auction and the animals are the values that it teaches the kids. It gives them something to work at. On the regular market, these animals would not be worth anywhere near what these kids walk away from the fair with, and most of the kids understand that.
A possible reason these supporters will pay thousands of dollars for a steer or $1,700 for three Grand Champion chickens is because they want to see the kids return the following year and continue learning about livestock.
"Whatever we can do to benefit the kids," Gomes said, mentioning that they are the future of this place and it is important to invest in them. "You've gotta keep your heart in the right place," she said. "That's the reason I keep doing it."
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