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Bidders rally around 4-H/FFA youth

Madalyn Cory poses with her grand champion steer on Sunday at the 84th Annual 4H/FFA Rotary Livestock Auction at the Klamath County Fairgrounds.

The 84th Annual 4H/FFA Rotary Livestock Auction netted a record $855,000 in sales — and counting — on Sunday in its first ever virtual auction.

Between 350 and 400 youth took part in the auction, with grand and reserve champion participants in person at the fairgrounds, while other participants watched via livestream from home. The auction was organized and facilitated by Oregon State University Extension Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center, the Klamath County Fair Board and Rotary Club of Klamath County.

Traci Reed, 4-H coordinator, said organizers of the auction had discussed having a virtual component to the sale in the past, but COVID-19 made this the year to implement it.

“We did over $75,000 in online sales, so that was pretty exciting,” Reed said on Monday. “When the gavel hit at the very end, we were almost $100,000 over last year’s goal, last year’s record-breaker.”

The sale also netted tens thousands of dollars in add-ons, where individuals can tack on individual amounts to a 4-H or FFA participant’s animal purchase amount.

“I think all of the people in our community were absolutely rallying around the kids,” Reed said. “That’s how you deal in hard times, you keep going and you still show your stuff … The community was really supportive of that.”

Reed said participants were just happy to be there to show at all.

“They were rewarded,” she said. “The community stood behind them greatly.”

More than 100 new buyers registered for the auction, in addition to hundreds of returning buyers, according to Pam Greene, of Amcom Tax & Accounting.

Buyers had their pick of how to bid this year, including pooling their money towards an animal purchase, buying online and some registered bidders were there in-person.

Reed said grandparents from out-of-state joined in to bid, as well as a buyer currently on their honeymoon in Aruba.

Reed emphasized that participants followed all of the rules and guidelines implemented by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in terms of social distancing protocols. Only volunteers, 4-H and FFA leaders as well as volunteers stayed on site during the auction.

Orange stripes marked six feet of distance for participants to ensure social distance protocols.

“It took a lot of organization to do that,” Reed said. “We’re lucky — we have such a big place.”

Chris Moudry, president of Rotary Club of Klamath County, also emphasized that the large facility with roll-up doors qualifies as an outdoor venue.

He said the venue, volunteers and employees helped the event be successful.

“The fair board did a great job trying to move this thing forward,” Moudry said. “Hats off to the fair board for that, and the fair employees … their jobs are being curtailed.”

Reed and Moudry admitted the event didn’t happen “without glitches,” including a backlog during the buyer registry process.

“We’re throwing a whole lot of technology than we ever have before,” Moudry said. “For the people out in the audience, it looked like it ran fine.”

Overall, attitudes were upbeat among participants and families, simply because they got to participate.

“Every 4-H or FFA member that had an animal in there got to sell that animal,” Moudry said.

Moudry said it was important to keep the sale going this year in any way possible because of the hard work, time and money that participants put into raising their animal.

“Even at the beginning of COVID in latter March, when things really started going south, they still had a lot of money already wrapped into it — the cost of the animal, they’ve already been feeding it for three or four or five months,” Moudry said.

“Everybody was hoping for the best but thinking it could be a disaster,” Moudry added.

Moudry said Rotary had planned to step in and fill gaps for lower bids in order to help youth who didn’t sell their animal at full price. But with the turnout from buyers, he said there was no need.

“This is a very rewarding thing ... because it touches so many kids and their parents,” Moudry said.

The Alternative Stock Show Classic, which allows developmentally disabled individuals the opportunity to show an animal, was canceled this year due to COVID-19, according to Reed.