After months of uncertainty, the Kenai Peninsula’s 4-H youth have figured out how to continue their annual Junior Market Livestock Auction while keeping a safe distance from bidders and each other.
This year, the auction will look more like a drive-in theater than a traditional auction, with the bidders and guests in cars in the parking lot of the Soldotna Rodeo Grounds, their radios tuned to the auctioneer’s FM transmitter.
The auction was set to be in an online format, but Cassy Rankin, program assistant for the Kenai Peninsula District 4-H Program, said Thursday one of the local 4-H kids actually suggested that they make it a drive-in auction, similar to how Nikiski Middle/High School conducted its graduation ceremony this year. After getting approval for the plan from the University of Alaska Fairbanks — which is the organization under which Kenai Peninsula 4-H operates — Rankin and the other 4-H members went to work securing a location and making it happen.
Perhaps the biggest change this year is that it will take place at the Rodeo Grounds in Soldotna off Kalifornsky Beach Road, rather than at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds where it has taken place for the last 40 years.
“I’ve already gotten calls from people that have registered saying ‘I’ll see you in Ninilchik!’” Rankin said. “So that’s a big change that I want to make sure people are aware of. It’s in Soldotna this year, not Ninilchik.”
The bidders and guests will park their cars on one side of a chain-link fence, and on the other side the youth will show off their animals one by one. Large animals, such as pigs and steer, will be sold by-the-head this year instead of by-the-pound. Rankin said that was to simplify the process for the volunteers and organizers. Rayne Reynolds from Palmer will be returning as the auctioneer this year. His mic will be connected to an FM transmitter that guests can tune into using their car radios.
The participants will be given bidding paddles painted bright neon orange, and volunteer “spotters” on horseback will be in the parking lot to catch when someone makes a bid and notify Reynolds of the amount.
Due to the nature of this year’s auction, attendance will be limited. Rankin said that the list of businesses that usually attend the auction every year have already been notified by the 4-H youth of the changes and have been in the loop since as early as April, but anyone can register to attend by going to kp4h.com. Everyone who registers will be entered into a raffle to win a variety of door prizes on the day of the auction.
Rankin said one other new aspect of this year’s auction will be a change in how “add-ons” are given to the kids who raised livestock. Normally, after an animal has been sold, participants can pledge some extra money for the 4-H’er whether or not they were the ones who bought the animal. The add-ons are a way for community members to support the 4-H youth even if they can’t afford to buy a whole pig or steer, Rankin said. This year people will be able to submit their add-ons online.
The weekend of the auction, anyone can go online to kp4h.com, look through a list of 4-H youth and their livestock, and pledge as much as they would like from the comfort of their home. Rankin said that one possible upside to this method is that family and friends from all over the country can give their support without needing to be in Alaska.
The auction is set to take place Saturday, Aug. 15 at noon. This weekend, 4-H’ers are “showing” their animals by recording videos and submitting them to the judges. Rankin hopes to have those videos online for everyone to see.
In addition, all of the non-livestock projects will be on display at the 4-H website, complete with photos and short bios of the kids.
For more information about the auction and to register to attend, visit kp4h.com.