A clean sweep | VailDaily.com

A clean sweep

Jacey Schlegel auctions her steer during Saturday's 4-H junior livestock auction.

You know how most charity events have a silent auction? The 4-H Junior Livestock Auction is not silent.

Hundreds of people gather in the Eagle River Center as young 4-H contestants parade their animals for potential buyers in an event that’s part fashion show and part funhouse.

This year they raised $162,000 in one afternoon. The money goes to the best cause of all – the kids who did the work.

4-H members get 97 percent of money. Some of that they reinvest in next year’s animals or other 4-H projects, college funds and savings accounts. The other 3 percent goes to the Junior Livestock Sales Commission to cover the costs of running the auction, said Jenny Wood with Eagle County’s Colorado State University Cooperative Extension.

4-H members invest countless hours through the year with daily feeding, cleaning and handling their project animal to prepare for the fair.

They also learn a little enterprise along the way, mostly that the payoff at the auction is part of doing business. The kids buy and raise their own animals, including feeding, watering, grooming, managing their overall health and keeping a daily record book.

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It’s like all fundraisers, it doesn’t happen in just one afternoon. The junior livestock committee meets all year long and the kids raise those animals for months, Wood said.

But it does happen without a bunch of bling, unless you count the occasional belt buckle, which ought to count.

Sometimes things happen that set the place buzzing, like Russell Molina buying every grand champion in this year’s auction.

Molina is with the Gore Range Brewery, but originally he’s from Fort Bend County, Texas, and he and his brother were up to their eyebrows in 4-H and Future Farmers of America. They competed in the Fort Bend County Fair, then decided to try the big time.

They competed at the Texas State Fair in Dallas, then the other Texas state fair in San Antonio, then to Houston for one of the nation’s largest shows.

There was the year when his brother had the grand champion steer and Russell the reserve grand champion lamb, but they never had two grand champions the same year.

Fast forward a few years and Russ is the successful owner of a local business, the Gore Range Brewery in Edwards.

He was reading the paper last year and spotted a story about a brother and sister who’d won Grand Champion in each of their classes, Kaitlyn and Wyatt Borah. Jake and Kim Borah are their parents. The Borah kids are with the Rocky Mountain 4-H Club and it’s the second year they swept their respective classes.

Molina decided that sort of dedication should be rewarded.

“I told my wife we’re going,” Molina said. “So much was given to me when I was doing it. It was time to give back.”

He showed up last year determined to buy both the Borah’s grand champion steer and hog. He way overpaid for the steer, he says, but a miscommunication while the hog was being auctioned made him miss it.

He quietly decided that this year he’d buy all the grand champions, and that’s what he did.

There was never a doubt during the bidding, Molina said.

“There was never a time I wondered what I was doing. I knew what I was doing,” he said.

There were some memorable moments, though.

He got into a bidding war with Chef Kelly Liken and the grand champion rabbit cost him $2,000. Then there was the grand champion goose that set him back $1,500, but he got them all.

No one has ever bought every grand champion before, Wood said.

“I hoped that if I bought all the grand champions, the other bidders would bid things up a little,” Molina said.

Turns out that’s what happened.

The prices were pretty even from top to bottom of each class, and that doesn’t always happen, Wood said.

“Usually, the grand champions from each class attract larger bids, then it falls off significantly, Wood said.

“This year prices were consistent throughout each class,” Wood said.

Molina donates the meat to local non-profits, then hosts fundraiser dinners at the Gore Range Brewery.

“They don’t have to buy the food. I’ve already paid for it,” Molina said.

In years past, the 4-H Junior Livestock auction has raised more than $220,000.

“It’s pretty amazing support that we get,” Wood said.

The number of animals was down this year, because the cost of feed was up, Wood said.

Their main buyers used to be construction companies. This year there were none, but several other buyers stepped up and came ready to bid, Wood said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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