Scroll to the bottom of this page to see general photos from the Ohio State Fair.
COLUMBUS — Three of the eight bids at the Ohio State Fair Sale of Champions Aug. 10 went down in the history books as all-time records. The reserve champion pen of chickens, reserve champion barrow and reserve champion steer each brought a bigger bid than ever before in the sale’s 41-year history.
None of the exhibitors went home disappointed though, as the Sale of Champions had its best year since 1996. Buyers paid $202,500 for the top eight livestock projects, a total that was up $43,000 from last year.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland called the sale a celebration of Ohio’s future and said the young exhibitors there demonstrate the kind of work ethic that has sustained Ohio agriculture for many generations.
“They are here because of their extraordinary energy and purpose,” Strickland told the crowd at the fairground’s Celeste Center.
As Jefferson County’s Kyleigh DeFrank led her grand champion steer into the sale ring, auctioneer Johnny Regula carefully surveyed the buyers sitting in the front rows.
“You know what I want,” he told them. “I don’t even have to say it. I want $100,000 for that steer.”
The bids quickly soared as ringmen Steve Andrews, Todd Woodruff and Kevin Wendt encouraged buyers to open their wallets. Strickland and Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee rushed back and forth between bidders, coaxing them to give just a little more each time.
When Regula’s gavel fell, he was more than halfway to his six-digit goal. DeFrank’s champion steer brought $55,000 from Steve Rauch Excavation and Demolition.
It was the sixth year in a row Steve Rauch Excavation and Demolition has purchased the grand champion steer. The bid was up $12,500 from the price the company paid last year.
This is DeFrank’s final year of 4-H and the first time anyone in her family has walked away from state fair with the purple banner.
“The feeling is unbelievable,” DeFrank said after the sale.
Kayla Campbell of Greene County took reserve champion honors in this year’s steer show. It was her second appearance at the Sale of Champions, as she also exhibited the reserve champion steer in 2006.
Her brother, Blake, showed the reserve champion in 2003.
In the end, Steve Rauch Excavation and Demolition paid a record-breaking $26,000 for Campbell’s steer. The old record of $25,150 was set by her brother in 2003.
After the sale, Campbell talked about why she enjoys showing cattle.
“It’s like my sport,” she said. “I don’t play basketball, football, powder puff or anything like that.”
First-year 4-H’er Tyla Voight of Miami County accomplished something this year that most youth work for their entire 4-H careers. After a two-day show, her purebred Yorkshire hog was crowned grand champion of the Ohio State Fair.
Regula said the barrow show may be the toughest show to win at state fair because so many variables can affect the animals.
But Voight had confidence in her barrow from Day 1 — so much confidence that she named him after boxing champion Muhammad Ali because he “floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.” The name was fitting, as the hog did face some tough competition on his way to the top.
Voight noted her champion has a softer side, though.
“He likes to eat marshmallows and sugar cubes out of your hand,” she said.
The Kroger Co. grocery chain bought the animal for $30,000, matching the price it paid in 2007.
Meijer Inc. superstore chain shattered its own record bid for the reserve champion barrow. Shown by Levi Kimley of Clark County, the animal brought $26,000.
The previous record of $20,000 was set by Meijer just last year.
For Audrey Neal of Seneca County, the trip to the Sale of Champions was a long time in the making. Her family has been showing at the state fair for 70 years and this was the first time any of them has claimed a champion banner.
Neal said she’s been knocking on the champion door for several years, previously winning fifth overall, third overall and reserve champion in the open show.
“I’ve been working for a real long time to get this,” she said.
At the sale, Neal paraded Hooch around the ring with a black, rhinestone studded collar circling his neck. As the bids touched the $20,000 mark, Neal called out to buyers, “You get the collar with the lamb.”
It was enough to garner another $5,000, bringing the final bid to $25,000 from Kroger. The bid was up $5,000 from last year.
Madison Banbury of Knox County showed this year’s reserve champion lamb, repeating her performance from 2007.
“It’s even sweeter to be here again,” Madison said of her second trip to the Sale of Champions.
The family has collected several champion and reserve champion banners over the years. Madison’s sister, Jamie, showed the grand champion in 2006, reserve champion in 2005, grand and reserve champion in 2004 and reserve champion in 1998. Sister Angela showed the grand champion in 1993.
This year, Madison’s reserve champion brought a bid of $16,000 from Amusements of America, Concessions by Cox, Event Marketing Strategies, Bulk Candy Store and ICEE and Huffman’s Market. The price was up $3,500 from last year.
Scott Seim’s first trip to the Ohio State Fair as an exhibitor will be one he won’t forget. The Montgomery County showman walked away with the grand champion banner for his pen of three meat chickens.
After taking the grand champion title twice at his county fair, Seim said he wanted to give state fair a try. Besides chickens, the youth also shows steers, lambs and hogs at the Montgomery County Fair.
Kroger made of the winning bid of $13,000 for Seim’s pen; it was $3,500 more than the 2007 price.
When Garrett Shafer of Miami County stepped into the sale ring with his reserve champion pen of chickens, he didn’t hide the surprise he felt over his success at this year’s state fair.
“I didn’t really think we were going to get this far,” he said.
As the bids climbed toward the $10,100 record during the sale, Regula prompted bidders to stake claim to a new all-time high.
He asked: When you’re sitting on a record, do you want your name or your competitor’s name on it?
The 2008 Sale of Champions was dedicated to Merlin Woodruff, known to many as the Voice of the Sale of Champions.
Woodruff, who passed away late in 2007, auctioned livestock for 50 years, including many years at the Ohio State Fair. Although Regula took over the Sale of Champions auction block in 1998, he said no one would ever be able to replace Woodruff.
He credited Woodruff’s foresight and enthusiasm for youth as the reason the Sale of Champions remains successful.
The sale began in 1968 as an incentive for 4-H and FFA members to exhibit their projects at the state fair. In 1995, a cap was placed on each Sale of Champions exhibit and the Ohio Expositions Commission established a youth reserve program to allocate the extra money generated each year.
Twenty-five percent of the final bid, or the amount over the cap (whichever is greater), goes to carcass contests, scholarships, the Outstanding Market Exhibitor program, showmanship awards, skillathon awards, dairy cattle, breeding livestock, FFA and 4-H.
The caps are:
- Champion steer — $21,000
- Reserve steer — $10,000
- Champion barrow — $9,000
- Reserve barrow — $6,000
- Champion lamb — $9,000
- Reserve lamb — $6,000
- Champion chickens — $5,000
- Reserve chickens — $3,000
So far, more than $1.3 million has gone into the youth reserve program and benefited 16,500 youth exhibitors.