PORT ANGELES — George the broad-breasted bronze turkey was a no-show at the Pacific Northwest Junior Livestock Auction on Saturday at the Clallam County Fair, but it didn’t matter to the winning bidder, who paid $1,450 for Kenzie Fors’ 4H project.
Acting on the recommendation of the Washington State Veterinarian, the fair did not allow George and other poultry to be exhibited due to continuing outbreaks of avian flu across the state. A subsequent decision regarding a testing regulation meant that even birds intended for auction could not appear.
So, young poultry exhibitors like Kenzie walked around the auction ring with large photographs of their birds instead of the real thing.
The Pacific Northwest Junior Livestock Auction (PNJLA), which organized the event, was concerned that the inability of people to view live poultry and the fact that there fewer beef, hogs, sheep and rabbits than in past years would dampen interest in the event.
But it didn’t seem to matter to bidders.
The 40 lots raised about $150,000 — an amount that stunned the PNJLA.
“We were blown away,” said PNJLA secretary Anna Swanberg. “We are so grateful and could never have imagined this kind of support. Our sponsors were so amazing.”
The auction sales price does not include add-ons, which donors can give to 4H or FFA members to provide extra support for exhibition costs, future projects or to simply recognize them for the hard work they invested in raising and bringing their animal to market.
Among the highlights of the auction was a lamb donated by Bent Gate Farm that produced a winning bid of $30 a pound from Hermann Bros.
The entire $3,500 from the sale of the lamb will go into a PNJLA scholarship fund that Swanberg said will be invested and hopefully create an endowment. (Bent Gate Farm is owned by Swanberg and her family.)
The PNJLA auction returned as a live event this year after it was forced to be held online in 2020 and 2021, when the fair was canceled due to uncertainty and restrictions around COVID-19. Those results were disappointing, Swanberg said.
“It was a real struggle,” Swanberg said. “People want to be at the fair, they want to see the kids and their projects, and selling online just wasn’t the same. “We had 10 to 12 buyers the past two years, and this year we had 17.”
Kendra Fors, Kenzie’s mother, said they did not know what to expect this year — especially when they learned they had to leave George at home.
“We were amazed at how it turned out,” she said.
Young exhibitors typically use the money they earn to pay back what they may owe for feed or other expenses, save for their education or invest in a project for the upcoming year. That is what Kenzie Fors plans to do.
“She’s shown interest in cattle, so perhaps she’ll get a steer,” Kendra Fors said.
While the big prices were exciting and could attract new 4H and FFA members that would boost participation, Swanberg said young exhibitors also needed to be reminded of reality.
“We want to encourage kids to sign up, but we also need to temper expectations,” Swanberg said. “Not every year is going to be like this.”
Those interested in contributing an add-on for a young exhibitor can go to www.pnwjla.com.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.