WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP — Every year for the past 46 years, 4-H and FFA members sell the animals they raised at an auction at the Crawford County Fair.
This year is no different. Some 160 animals are expected to be on the auction block at 5 p.m. today in the Youth Show Arena.
The youth purchase animals in the winter or spring to raise for the auction. They care for them daily and groom them.
Those raising beef get their animals in the winter. Those with goats, lambs or swine get their animals in the spring. Their goal is to make certain the animals are ready for the auction.
The animals must meet minimum weight levels but no exceed maximum weight, according to Katie Gajdowski of the Crawford County Cooperative Extension Office, which is in charge of the auction.
Once the animals are chosen, they are marked as the ones being raised for the auction.
Tonight, those same young people who have dedicated themselves to raising those animals will lead them into the auction ring before saying goodbye.
Patrick Dunn, 18, has been doing this for 11 years. Tonight's auction will be his last when he takes a pig to be sold.
He recalls the first time he took an animal, a steer, to the auction. "That first year was emotional," he said.
After that, Dunn also raised swine. He said pigs are easier to handle, as "you don't have to halter break them."
Dunn's advice for young people just starting is that selling your animal is "not the end of the world. As you go, there's always next year and then you just redo what you have done."
Dunn, who now is a freshman at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, will give the welcoming address at tonight's auction.
"I think it will be a little bit sad as it will be my final year," he said. The age limit for 4-H is 18.
This year, Dunn is selling the reserve champion swine.
The annual auction is conducted by volunteer auctioneers who take turns. Each year, the order of animals is rotated. This year's rotation will see 29 beef, nine goats, 20 lambs and 102 swine up for bid.
The students have done their part. They not only raised the animals, but they sent special invitations to those they believe may come and support them. The auction is open to anyone.
Among animals to be sold are the champion and reserve champions of each category.
Cody Lewis has the champion swine and Dunn, the reserve.
Melissa Mattocks has the champion goat with Mark Snyder, reserve champion.
The champion sheep owner is Lisa Prenatt and reserve champion, Madalyn Rankin.
The champion steer honors went to Scott Snyder and reserve champion, Marissa Miller.
Students hope to break the record prices for their meat. Record prices by the pound are beef, $6; swine, $15; goat, $25; and lamb, $21.
Six percent of the sale price is paid as commission to the program to pay for expenses. A 2 percent fee is charged to the champion and reserve champion prices with those funds going to a scholarship fund.
Students receive the balance of the winnings, Gajdowski said. Much of the money is used to purchase another animal for the next year or is saved for the future, such as for college.
Dunn, the son of Jill and Derek Haemer of Cambridge Springs, said he has used some of the funds for his college expenses.
In the meantime, those selling their animals are prepared to bid goodbye and are hopeful that many visitors will make their bids too — to give them a nice profit for their months of work.