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Junior Livestock Sale brings in $345,000

Logan Mehling of Powell, who was named the champion FFA showman, shows his hog at the Junior Livestock Sale on July 29. Logan Mehling of Powell, who was named the champion FFA showman, shows his hog at the Junior Livestock Sale on July 29. Tribune photos by Tessa Baker

A longtime tradition in Park County held true again this year: Hundreds gathered on a hot July day to buy livestock raised by local youth.

The annual sale on July 29 brought in $345,012 as buyers stepped up to bid on lambs, hogs, goats, steers and rabbits. A total of 236 youth sold their animals — down by just one from a year ago.

“The sale as a whole went over extremely well,” said Joe Bridges, chairman of the Junior Livestock Sale Committee.

Multiple buyers pooled their money to help Lauren Shepperson of Meeteetse, who couldn’t be at the sale due to a family crisis. (See related story.)

Bridges said all of the support from the community is appreciated.

“That core group, they’re there year in and year out,” Bridges said. “They never seem to waver, and it’s impressive to see their dedication to that program and helping it out.”

This year saw 36 first-time buyers at the Park County Junior Livestock Sale. Kids went out and invited new buyers, and there was “a great response,” Bridges said.

The committee ran out of plaques for the newcomers during the July 29 sale, and planned to deliver them later.

While this year’s total didn’t reach the record-setting $428,933 of 2015, Bridges said they’re “very happy” with the total.

“… To have a five-hour auction and bring in $345,000, that’s pretty impressive,” he said.

The final tally may reach close to $400,000 when all the add-ons are calculated, he said. Residents and businesses can add a donation when “they can’t afford to buy the whole animal, but they sure want to help the kid,” Bridges said.

Average prices for rabbits and hogs dropped a bit from last year, but the others were up.

“The hogs, I was a little disappointed went down, but we also sold 11 head more than what we normally sell, so that might have had a little bit to do with it,” Bridges said.

At 31, the number of steers declined this year.

“That’s the lowest amount of steers that we’ve sold in seven years — only by one, but it’s a trend we’re seeing, unfortunately,” Bridges said.

This year’s buyers enjoyed new improvements to the sale barn, including a new fan system to keep the air moving.

Safety concerns for youth showing their animals were the No. 1 issue. By adding new doors on the barn’s east side and reconfiguring the space, “we felt those were addressed completely,” Bridges said.

“The flow was a lot easier on the animals and the kids,” he said.

A large crew of volunteers makes the sale possible each year, from the auctioneers, ring men and clerks in the barn to those helping behind the scenes.

“What everyone doesn’t see is the guys out back that are moving the kids around, making sure the next one is there and ready,” Bridges said.

The board’s treasurer, June Ann Nelson, and secretary Jennifer Triplett take on the bulk of the weight with tracking everything down, billing and sending checks, Bridges said.

He said it’s great to see so many volunteers working together and never asking for anything.

“There is just no way we could pull this off without all those volunteers,” Bridges said. “I can’t say enough about them, because I don’t have to ask — they’re just there.”

2017 Park County Fair Junior Livestock Sale

Total sale = $345,012

Rabbits (5 sold)

Average: $480 apiece (down from $525 last year)

Highest price: $550 (Lauren Magargal and Curtis Muecke)

Hogs (114 sold)

Average: $4.57/pound (down from $5.11 last year)

Highest price: $10.50/pound (Dalton Woodward)

Lambs (52 sold)

Average: $8.23/pound (up from $6.76 last year)

Highest price: $80/pound (Lauren Shepperson)

Steers (31 sold)

Average: $3.03/pound (up from $2.82 last year)

Highest price: $5/pound (Holden Cooper)

Goats (35 sold)

Average: $8.82/pound (up from $7.78 last year)

Highest price: $14/pound (Kalli Ashby)

Group gathers to buy lamb for $80/pound following family crisis

When a Meeteetse teen couldn’t be at the Junior Livestock Sale following a sudden death in her family, a friend showed her lamb — and the community showed their support.

“Right out of the gate, there was just bidding everywhere,” said Joe Bridges, chairman of the Junior Livestock Sale Committee.

Lauren Shepperson’s lamb sold for $80 a pound. At 124 pounds, that amounted to roughly $10,000 for the Shepperson family.

“It was a touching moment to be in that barn and watch it happen,” Bridges said.

The outpouring of support shows “the kind of community it is,” said Regan Smith of Powell, who helped organize the effort to buy Shepperson’s lamb after hearing about the tragedy.

Vince Hopkin, owner of the WEA Market in Meeteetse, also helped collect donations for the family. “It was just really nice how this little community tries to help in a tragedy,” he said.

It was humbling to see how many donations came in over a short amount of time, he said.

“There were people coming in that we don’t know that were travelers, and they were throwing in $20 here and $10 there,” Hopkin said.

Donations from the local agricultural community ranged from $20 to $1,000, Smith said.

Louis Abarr of Meeteetse, a close friend of the family, said all the help from folks in Park County who stepped forward is very appreciated. He said there has been an outpouring of support for the Sheppersons.

For example, Bryce Salzman, a friend of Lauren’s, stepped forward right away and volunteered to show her lamb at the sale.

“It’s kind of what our community is good at over here. When one of our own is hurting, they just step up, no matter what,” said Abarr, who serves as the adviser for the Meeteetse FFA chapter. “That is very greatly appreciated, I know, by their family.”

He said they are “just overwhelmed with the amount of folks who opened their checkbooks and were willing to lend a hand.”

The WEA Market will continue to accept donations for the Sheppersons, and get it to the Junior Livestock Sale Committee and ensure it goes toward the family. Smith said they’re looking at setting up a savings account or foundation with the funds.

“You never know when you might be the one that needs the help,” he added. “I guess in my situation, I’ve needed help several times, and it feels pretty good when people offer to help.”

Bridges said it’s the only time he’s seen everyone in the sale barn on their feet and clapping at the end of a bidding.

“It’s a tribute to the community, and especially how close-knit the ag community can get … that they came up with a tremendous amount of money to have available for this family,” Bridges said.

Sydney Olsen of Powell shows her lamb at the Junior Livestock Sale on July 29. Olsen was honored as the reserve champion senior 4-H showman.

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