LIMA — As they are each year at this time, animals were on display Friday at the Allen County Fair.
But even more evident was the display of support — both emotional and financial — from the business community in Allen and surrounding counties for 4-H members exhibiting their animals one final time at this year’s fair.
More than 300 participants in the county 4-H program led their steers, sheep, goats and hogs into the show ring under the watchful eyes of bidders for the annual Junior Fair Livestock Auction.
Kelly Coble, 4-H Extension educator, said the number of animals sold at this year’s auction was up from last year, a trend that has stayed fairly constant. Now in her fifth year at the helm of the county 4-H program, Coble said it is exciting to see the 4-Hers rewarded for their long hours of hard work once their animals are sold at auction.
Coble said it also is a joy to watch youngsters mature as their years in 4-H begin to mount.
“I’ve been able to see a lot of kids grow up as they learn about the agriculture side of things and just learn some real life lessons,” Coble said.
A highlight of Friday’s auction, as it is annually, was the sale of the grand champion market steer. This year’s champ was shown by Delaney Jones, a member of the Auglaize Agriculture 4-H club and the daughter of Troy and Sara Jones.
Eleven-year-old Delaney stood in the show ring, dwarfed by her 1,300-pound steer, as the bidding got under way. She showed little emotion, perhaps a little intimidated by being the center of so much attention, as the bids started rolling in. The number quickly reached $10,000. Then $11,000. And the bids didn’t stop there. Once the dust had settled, the grand champion market steer had sold for a whopping $14,500 to a consortium of a dozen or more buyers.
After leaving the show ring, Delaney said she didn’t know how to react as the bid just kept rising.
“It was crazy,” she said, adding that the money realized from the sale of her steer will go directly into her college fund.
Not all 4-Hers showed champions Friday, but winning championships is not among the lessons that 4-H teaches. Jena Blanchong, a member of the West Side 4-H club, exhibited livestock at the fair for the fourth consecutive year. This year she showed goats and chickens.
Immediately after her goat sold at Friday’s auction, Blanchong said she was also looking forward to putting her check into a college fund. She said the auction day always comes with mixed emotions.
“It means the fair’s about over, and that school’s almost ready to start,” she said.
Wearing several hats
Matt Treglia was wearing several hats at the fair on Friday. Treglia is the Allen County Sheriff and has attended the fair daily. He was also at the livestock auction as a proud father of two daughters — Isabella and Sydney — who showed livestock as members of the Lafayette Boys and Girls 4-H Club.
Perhaps more importantly was Treglia’s role as a bidder at Friday’s auction. Joined by Chad Grant, co-owner along with the sheriff of Creek Bottom Farms, the pair were there to give back to the agricultural community that has been so good to them.
“This is all about the kids,” Treglia said. “We’re here to support 4-H and the farming industry. This pays the kids back for all their hard work.”
“We get letters from kids asking us to support their projects, and we’re happy to do it,” said Grant. “We try to go the extra mile.”
As it turned out, Creek Bottom Farms was among the group of buyers of the grand champion market steer.
Also bidding on animals was Gene McCluer, a representative of Mid-Ohio Energy, a member-owned cooperative that serves Hardin and Marion counties, among others.
“We try to target the people (exhibitors) in the areas we serve, but at the same time if there are kids whose animals aren’t bringing a very high bid, we’ll jump in and try to raise the price for them,” said McCluer. “And we’re happy to do it. There are a lot of buyers here who do the same thing.”
And for anyone who thinks the price of groceries is going through the roof at their local supermarket, consider this: A gallon of milk was sold at Friday’s auction for $5,000. That total will be divided equally among 14 exhibitors of dairy steers who did not sell their animals at the auction.