Beef carcass gets highest bid in large livestock sale

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:52 PM

Veteran 4-H exhibitor Katie Sparks was "ecstatic" when Ralph Walcher, the owner of Walcher's Peach Orchard, bought her market steer beef carcass for a whopping $4,100.

"I was thrilled," said the 19-year-old Norwalk resident, who is in her 12th and final year of showing market steers.

Sparks plans to put the money toward college and into savings. She is studying hair design at the Academy of Paul Mitchell and has worked at Christian Roberts Salon for the last 2 1/2 years.

She appreciated Walcher's generosity. The two met the first day of the 2007 Huron County Junior Fair when Sparks was showing her animal.

"We became friends and (Walcher) said he'd buy it," Sparks said. "He's a really nice guy."

The steer was the reserve grand champion.

"It was the second finest of 17," explained Sparks' grandmother, Donna Sparks. Her family has owned a farm on Ridge Road for the last 44 years.

It didn't bother Katie Sparks that the steer she showed would be used as meat. "Growing up on a farm, it's just how it is," she said.

Walcher probably didn't realize how much it would take to purchase the carcass.

On Saturday, the right to buy the meat quickly became a high-priced bidding war between Walcher and Huron County Commissioner Mike Adelman.

"My dad bid a couple times and then those two (Walcher and Adelman) kind of took it away," Sparks said.

"He (Adelman) has bought two of Katie's in the past," Sparks' grandfather, Lee Sparks, said. "He says it's the best (meat)," his wife added.

Walcher, after the large livestock sale, sat with Katie and Donna Sparks.

"He ran my price right up," Walcher about Adelman. "I told him (later) I wouldn't vote for him."

Adelman didn't leave empty-handed. He and his wife bought four animals for about $1,900. The three commissioners paid a part of $950 for the grand champion lamb, exhibited by Willard resident Alex Bauer, of Willard FFA.

Norwalk Concrete Industries purchased six animals. While partner John Lendrum declined to say how much the business spent Saturday, he said: "We normally spend a few thousand" each year.

Lendrum pointed out how much work and time the youngsters spend on their fair projects. He admitted he has no definite auctioning strategy, but said he tries to keep the prices up.

"You don't want any kid to be really low," Lendrum added.

Jeff Kinney, the operator of Prestige Pools, has a similar strategy and doesn't want to see any of the exhibitors "left out." The Norwalk business has been buying livestock since the early 1990s and bought multiple lots Saturday.

"We look to see who works real hard at their projects and tries real hard," Kinney explained.

"We believe this is a good thing for the children and students ... to be involved in," he said. "It teaches them good values. It teaches them to respect animals."

There was no quilt auctioned off at the large livestock sale this year because it wasn't completed in time.

"That's a first," auctioneer Gail Pickworth told the crowd. "If somebody told me earlier this week, I could have gotten it finished."

The crowd laughed at Pickworth's joke. He described himself as "just a good ol' boy from Hartland Township" and thanked the crowd honoring him Friday night for being an auctioneer for 40 years.

"You don't get a lot of accolades out there. You sure don't get ovations," Pickworth said.

There were 269 total lots sold Saturday for a total of $161,452.26. Last year, 363 lots sold for $182,923.

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