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Annual Ag Alumni Auction Slated at State Fair

Consignments plus quilts and other items made during fair up for bids

Mauri Williamson envisioned an old-fashioned farm auction when he dreamed up the idea of holding a public auction at the Indiana State fair just a few years ago. The auction tradition continues this year with another one planned for Saturday, Aug. 21, the last Saturday of the fair. It will be held at the Tractor Barn in Pioneer Village, now remade and renamed as the Opry House. Proceeds benefit upkeep and expansion of the facilities at the Pioneer Village at the state fair, he says.

The auction begins at 10 a.m. EDT. The items up for bids are often unusual, but very real. And the clerk expects real money, including good checks or cash, as well. Everything from rabbits to homemade pies to furniture and old tractors, running or not, have been auctioned off during the event.

Toy tractors are often a hit during the sale as well. Some years there are more than others. One intriguing feature of the auction is that you never know what you will find there to bid on, Williamson says. He's the retired director of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association, and also retired head of the Pioneer Village. But retired doesn't mean he's not on site, in full costume- bib overalls with straw hat- and ready to entertain folks, every day of the fair. Look for a special story about wandering through time with Mauri in an upcoming issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer.

The highlight of the sale is usually the auctioning of the quilt made by the ladies who set up shop in the main building of Pioneer Village. That building was erected and dedicated in 1968. Before that, Purdue antiques were displayed for several years, since 1961, under the grandstands. Williamson was responsible for starting the display at the fair, although two professors at Purdue began collecting old items in the 1940's, and displayed them in the Purdue Ag Engineering building until they ran out of room, Williamson notes.

The quilt usually sells for several thousand dollars. A craftsman who makes a wooden bench with a design in it each year also watches the fruit of his labors go for a sizable sum, all for charity.

The auction operates on the numbers system. Auctioneers usually donate their time to help raise money. Put the old-time auction at pioneer Village on your schedule for Saturday, August 21. Even if you don't buy anything, the entertainment is worth the price of admission to the event - which is free!

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