COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and incoming Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee each celebrated their first Ohio State Fair Sale of Champions Aug. 12.
The duo called out bids, offered Gee’s trademark bowties as buyers’ gifts, and even talked themselves into bagging groceries for two hours at Kroger after the grocery giant bought the grand champion barrow project.
The Sale of Champions, which offered up the top pens of chickens, lambs, hogs and steers from the state fair competition, had receipts totaling $159,500, down more than $16,000 from the 2006 sale.
Building on tradition. “Tonight we tip our hats to tradition and the history of this sale and fair,” said show host Andy Vance, noting the 2007 event was the 40th annual Sale of Champions.
The sale was created in 1968 to offer more incentive to young 4-H and FFA members bringing livestock projects to the Ohio State Fair.
“We all came to make some money for these young people tonight, didn’t we!” he cried, kicking off the sale under the bright lights of the Celeste Center on the state fairgrounds.
Poultry. Auctioneer Johnny Regula welcomed Lindsey Voge of Preble County to the sale ring first with her grand champion pen of market chickens.
Voge is no stranger to the champions’ sale after showing the grand champions in 2003 and the reserve champions in 2005 and 2006.
Regula also mentioned a special milestone for Voge at this year’s fair: She also exhibited the grand champion breeding poultry, marking the first time in state fair history both junior fair breeding and market champions were shown by the same person.
When the gavel fell, Concessions by Cox, Amusements of America, Buchy Food Service and Event Marketing Strategies paid $9,500 for the pen of chickens.
Voge said her championship this year “means a lot more” after winning her first year, not placing at all her second year, and settling for reserve the past two years.
“It’s better to win when you don’t expect it.”
Voge and Kara McCarthy of Wyandot County flip-flopped places for this year’s show, with McCarthy sinking to the No. 2 spot after being on top in 2006.
She was excited with her finish, though, saying “you can always hope [to win] but don’t count your chickens before they hatch!”
Kale Marketing and Burkhart Farm Center teamed to pay $7,500 for McCarthy’s pen of birds.
Sheep. Stark County’s Amber Shoemaker clinched top honors in the Suffolk breed show the very first day of the state fair, then surprised even herself when her lamb was tapped overall junior fair champion.
Tears streamed down Shoemaker’s face when she talked about always wanting to show a lamb at the state fair, and getting involved in the showring with the help of friends and neighbors.
And in a show circle where most exhibitors raise a whole trailer full of lambs to bring to the state fair show, Amber admitted her grand champion lamb was the only one she’d raised this summer.
Her keen eye for picking and feeding a champion netted her a $20,000 bid from the Kroger grocery chain.
Knox County’s Madison Banbury showed the reserve champion market lamb. The lamb was previously named champion in the grade division, the largest class in state fair competition.
The Banbury family is comfortable in the champions’ show ring, too, with older sister Jamie showing a slew of champions, including the top lamb in 2006, reserve in 2005, and both grand and reserve in 2004.
Madison Banbury’s reserve champion brought $12,500 from Direct Feed Sales and Huffman’s Market.
Hogs. The market barrow show, called one of the toughest competitions at the Ohio State Fair, took two judges two days to evaluate. When all was said and done, it was Alex Vaughan of Clinton County holding the purple ribbon.
Auction ringman Kevin Wendt, who’s also ‘the voice of the hog barn’ during state fair breed shows, told the audience 530 exhibitors showed 990 head of hogs this year.
“The swine barn was overflowing, boys! This may be one of the best barrows we’ve ever had in this ring,” Regula said. “Feast your eyes, the auction’s on!”
Bidding volleyed between several buyers as the bids climbed higher, and when grocer Kroger was hesitating to bid $25,000, Gov. Ted Strickland stepped in.
Strickland, in his first term as governor, volunteered to bag groceries for two hours if Kroger would buy the hog. Not to be outdone, Ohio State President Gee talked to the Meijer camp and set up his own deal to bag groceries two hours before an Ohio State football game if Meijer would bid $26,000.
The bid continued to bounce back and forth, and in the end, both Strickland and Gee agreed to bag groceries for two hours for winning bidder Kroger. The chain paid $30,000 for the hog.
The 11-year-old Vaughan was ecstatic, saying she never thought she’d win at the state fair. “It feels really really good, but I’m also sad to see my hog go bye-bye,” she said.
Kroger also volunteered a year’s supply of marshmallows for Vaughan, who paraded her hog in the sale ring by holding a marshmallow in front of it.
Regula said the judges “stewed and stewed and stewed” over their top two picks in the hog show, and rightfully so. Both Alex Vaughan’s and reserve champion exhibitor Curt Steeley’s bluebutt hogs looked a lot alike, and they both stood first and second in the same weight class.
“I swear, I think he got beat on a coin toss folks, that’s how close this was,” Regula said.
Bidders appeared exhausted when Regula had reached $15,000, but a $16,000 bid came at the last moment, then $17,000 and $18,000, and that’s when sale co-host Lindsay Hill stepped in.
Perched atop the auctioneers’ stand with Regula, Lindsay spoke up, telling the audience the record for the reserve champion market hog was set last year at $18,000.
“We don’t tie,” Hill said, urging bidders to go higher and open their pocketbooks wider.
Meijer ended up setting a new record bid of $20,000 for the project. The superstore chain also threw in a bonus $500 gift card to help with Steeley’s back-to-school college expenses.
Steeley, who said his hog was the champion lightweight back at the Logan County Fair, said things “turned out just as good as it could be.”
Steers. Twenty-seven classes and 190 steers vied for the state fair championship, the most coveted honor in the Sale of Champions.
Zach Grauer of Ashland County showed the champion, and recounted the story of how his top pick came to be.
Grauer, whose family runs a 700-head hog farm and a 5,000-acre grain farm, said he thought he had his state fair steer in the barn last fall. But a Friday night call from a friend in Nebraska changed all that.
The Grauer family, busy shelling corn, filled their dryers as fast as they could, shut down the combines, and loaded up for a road-trip to Nebraska. They bought the calf, loaded it, and were back in the combine Sunday morning, Regula said.
“That was a pretty good trip, huh Zach?” the auctioneer jested, and Grauer grinned and nodded in agreement.
In his last year of 4-H eligibility, Grauer’s champion steer sold for $42,500 to Steve Rausch Excavation and Demolition.
The reserve champion steer, shown by Jacque Knipe of Muskingum County, was from the same judging division as the champion.
“It was a close show, a really close show,” Regula said, also noting Knipe showed the third-place overall steer at last year’s fair.
Knipe’s steer was purchased by Fred and Rita Dailey, Union Stockyard and Steve Rausch Excavation and Demolition for $17,500.
Sixteen-year-old Knipe, who plans to graduate high school this year two years early and go on to be a nurse, said her steer project proceeds would help pay for college.
Reserve fund. In 1995, the Ohio State Fair began to place caps on the amount exhibitors could pocket from their livestock in the sale. Funds earned over the cap amount are distributed through the Fair’s Youth Reserve Program.
The program distributes funds to other youth exhibitors for carcass contests, scholarships, the outstanding market exhibitor program, breeding, showmanship, skillathons, 4-H and the FFA.
Caps are $5,000, grand champion meat chickens; $3,000, reserve champion meat chickens; $9,000, grand champion market lamb; $6,000, reserve champion market lamb; $9,000, grand champion barrow; $6,000, reserve champion barrow; $21,000, grand champion market steer; and $10,000, reserve champion market steer.
Of 2007 Sale of Champions proceeds, $90,500 was added to the Youth Reserve Program fund, bringing the total since 1995 to more than $1.2 million.
(Reporter Andrea Zippay welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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