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Column: Livestock expo unites community

ESCANABA — The U.P. State Fair Authority made the decision in July to postpone the annual fair due to ongoing concerns related to COVID-19. This is the third time in its history that the fair will not take place, once during World War II and again during a polio epidemic.

Fair week in August will not be the same. We won’t be able to enjoy the rides, the food, the music and all the fun and entertainment that comes with the fair. Nevertheless, the Junior Market Livestock Shows and Auction will take place during the Lori Branstrom Memorial Livestock Expo.

The auction, which will be held on Saturday, Aug. 22, is organized by the Junior Market Livestock Committee and they extend their gratitude to all the businesses and individuals who participate. Their involvement allows junior exhibitors to experience the marketing process and see the results and payoff of their efforts. Many of the exhibitors tell us that the money they raise during the sale goes to pay for school or to purchase their next project animal.

We tip our hat to the businesses and individuals that show up every year to place their bids and give encouragement to our young agriculturalists who work so hard raising their animals all year long. The auction is always an incredible show of community support.

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a tough year for many businesses that never miss the auction as they struggle with mandated closures and new regulations being put in place before they can reopen. Kelly Jensen Bjork, owner of Chamber member business Ashley Furniture and a livestock novice, expressed her appreciation to those who attend and buy during the auction. She knows of the challenges business owners face right now and also knows how families struggled to find meat to fill their freezers during the COVID shutdowns.

Kelly suggests that the auction provides a perfect opportunity for the community to come together to support each other, fill their freezers with meat raised locally in a humane manner, and take a little pressure off local businesses that generously buy at the auction. It’s easy! Just get a group of family members, friends, or coworkers together, get a bidder’s number, and after you win the bid, you’ll be asked where you want the animal processed and select the desired cuts of meat. It truly is that easy. That’s a great suggestion, Kelly!

Bidding at the auction will be even easier this year. Buyers will have the opportunity to view and bid online at MichiganAuction.com. All exhibitors and animals can be viewed through an online catalog at michiganauction.com after Aug. 11. The online bidding allows supporters to bid before Aug. 22 and while the auction is being conducted. Online bidders can tune into the live auction through their computer or by phone to hear and respond to the auctioneer. In-person buyers will bid like traditional live auctions and will see very few differences.

The U.P. State Fair Authority is committed to complying with all Executive Orders and CDC guidelines and moved the auction location to the grandstands to allow for proper social distancing. Food and beverage concessions will be available before and during the auction. A 50/50 raffle will be held to help offset some of the expo-related expenses.

The livestock auction is the backbone of the U.P. State Fair and our Jr. Market Livestock exhibitors have worked hard again this year in the midst of great uncertainty to raise blue-ribbon worthy animals. It would have been a shame if they lost the opportunity to show and sell their animals — we’re glad they didn’t.

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Vickie Micheau is executive director of the Delta County Area Chamber of Commerce

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