By Dale Wegner, The Sac Sun editor and general manager
One act of kindness kept growing as the Sac County 4-H'ers stepped up to the Bonus Auction on Saturday, July 27, at the Sac County Fair.
At the outset of this year's Sac County Fair, it was announced that a new capital project to replace the show ring and beef/sheep barn would be started. A sign board was placed in the show ring during livestock shows to let people know about the project, with announcements about it during the shows as well. The message got through to one Sac County 4-H and East Sac County FFA member, and he decided to do something about it.
Justin Rupnow, the son of Larissa and Eric Rupnow, was the first person on the list for the Bonus Auction. The Bonus Auction is a way for community members to provide a "bonus check" to Sac County 4-H and FFA members who exhibited livestock at the Sac County Fair. Local supporters bid against each other for the honor of providing the exhibitor a bonus. The money is normally used for the youth member to pay for their costs of raising their livestock entry.
"I saw that board when I was walking around the fairgrounds, and during the shows," said Justin. "I thought it would be a good idea to give back to the fair ... they need every dollar they can get for this project. The barn and show ring are getting old, and starting to rot, and we need a new one really bad."
Justin talked it over with his parents, and they agreed it would it be a great idea to give a portion of his bonus auction money to the project. They noted that Justin's place on the list of youth participating in the Bonus Auction, as the first person, was the ideal place to be, setting an example for all those who came after him.
Justin said he didn't discuss what he was going to do with any other youth members before stepping up to the stage of the grandstand, where the Bonus Auction is held. He talked briefly with Mike Green, one of the auctioneers helping with the Bonus Auction, along with Jim Green, Justin Mason, Bill Auen and Chris Mason. "I didn't really talk to anyone before I went and did it," he said. "It was more in the moment. No one else really knew about it."
Justin offered up $200 of whatever he received to go to the project. Bids were a little slow at first, with the final bid for Justin's bonus coming in at $525.
That got things rolling. Other youth members started offering portions of their bonuses to the project. The bidders started getting into it. As the 86 youths made their way up to the stage for their time on the auction block, bids started increasing. The youth started increasing the amount they offered to donate back to the building project in flat dollar amounts for some, and percentages up to 50 percent for others. Auctioneers egged on the bidders, reminding them of the youths' generosity. Bids started jumping closer to $1,000, then $1,500 and higher, with one going for $2,100.
Then Dakota Powell stepped up, and said he would donate his entire Bonus Auction to the project. That set off a bidding war that reached $4,000 before it was over, all for the show ring and barn project.
In all, almost $22,000 was donated to the project by the youth of Sac County. This year's Bonus Auction brought in over $82,000 for the youth showing livestock at the Sac County Fair, with the donated amount included in that total.
4-H and FFA exhibitors invite bidders to make a difference
Asked on Monday about his thoughts of what he started with his donation, Rupnow said he was proud of his fellow 4-H and FFA youth, as they followed his example. "The 4-H and FFA members around here, they want to give back to the communities they live in and support," he said. "They know the buildings that are going to be replaced aren't in great shape. The county fair is such a big part of 4-H and FFA, and they know this will benefit them in the future. It was a great idea that really went well."
Mike Green said he was surprised at how the idea caught on. "It was very humbling to see what those kids did," he said. "It reflects well on the youth of Sac County, and their parents. And of course none of that would be possible without the bidders in the crowd, who really got into it. One of the regular bidders at the Bonus Auction came down to us after Justin did that, and told us to let the kids know that if they were going to donate to the project, they needed to say it up front, and they'd make it worth their while. It just caught on fire. It got wild."
Steph Erpelding, 4-H youth specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach Sac County, agreed with Green that the youths' efforts had an impact. "I was just elated to have Justin start that process right away at the beginning. It just kept going and going. I was getting overcome with emotion, watching those kids give their own money back for this project."
Erpelding said the show ring and barn project has been something the Sac County Fair Board has been thinking about for several years, with a committee just recently formed to develop the idea and fundraising. "We never thought of the kids. It's awesome that the kids thought of it and ran with it."
This article was originally printed in The Sac Sun, July 30, 2019. Permission to reprint from Dale Wegner, editor and general manager, The Sac Sun, 712-662-7161, email@example.com