There was a steady, sometimes even heavy rain with some rather
uncomfortable wind gusts.
In spite of the inclement conditions, this tiny community was
literally packed to the gills with bidders and spectators for what
has been an annual event for the past 37 years, the Lake Fork
Community Consignment Auction.
The day began in the wee hours of the morning, as the community
center board members and volunteers manned the kitchen in the
basement of the retired school building.
They brewed coffee, made hot chocolate, prepared pancake batter,
fried sausage, made gravy and got everything in order to open up and
start serving breakfast by 7 that morning. They continued their
efforts until evening, when they stopped serving around 4 and began
the process of cleaning up.
Outside, auctioneer Mike Maske and several other auctioneers, who
all volunteer their time to the event, were getting organized to
conduct one of the largest consignment auctions this area has ever
Bidders started arriving early, many before 7. They got their
bidding numbers and a bite to eat; then at 9:30 the real fun began.
"We started with seven auctioneer trucks," Maske said. "Each
truck had a driver, clerk, one or two helpers holding up items, and
a member of the local Boy Scouts running the sheets back to the
cashier in the school."
He said that the efforts of the auctioneers and their crews were
greatly appreciated, and he acknowledged each one: "Area auctioneers
that donated their time were Chase Brown from Warrensburg; Gary
Morris of Lincoln; Richard Leach from Springfield; Dan White of
Lincoln; Ed Voyles from Beason; Les Payne at Atlanta; Gail Quick
from Decatur; John Lauranzana III from Springfield; Ryan Hildebrand
and Steve Fogler come in from Danvers; Dan Burton is from South
Wilmington; Bill Huchens of Palmyra; Bernie Bree of San Jose; and
He adds, "The great thing about the whole story is that everyone
donated their time -- no one drew a dime."
Bob Shanle, who clerks for Maske, and Marty Clementz, who works
for Central Illinois Ag in Atlanta, sells farm equipment in the area
and is referred to by Maske as another greatly appreciated volunteer
who "has been a friend of the Lake Fork Community Center for many
years," spent a lot of their day working in the clerk trailer, where
potential buyers sign in for their bidder numbers.
During the day, nearly 1,100 people signed up for a bidder
number, in spite of the nasty weather. When asked about the turnout
and how the weather affected the sale, Shanle said that auctions are
held and people come to them regardless of the weather. "In 44 years
of working auctions, I've never seen a single one canceled due to
weather," he said.
The Lake Fork auction is known not just locally, but all over the
state, and even the country. Shanle and Clementz said that during
the bidder registration there were several folks from out of state
who took a number.
Off the top of his head, Clementz said he recalled specifically
folks from as far away as New Mexico registering to bid.
Items up for auction vary from year to year but generally
include wagonloads of housewares, dishes, lamps and other
miscellaneous items, plus furnishings such couches, chairs, tables
and bedroom sets.
Outdoor equipment might include anything and everything from push
lawn mowers or garden tillers all the way up to farm tractors,
plows, field sprayers and more.
Many folks came to the sale in order to buy, but they also came
to watch and visit.
"Even with the rain we had a very good sale," Maske said. "I
think that we had somewhere around 2,000 people on the grounds
Saturday. The number of items sold were down -- which you would have
expected because of the early week forecast. Fewer people wanted to
risk rain damage on their property."
While the auction was going on outside, the basement of the
community building was constantly buzzing with folks sipping coffee
or hot chocolate and eating pancakes and sausage or biscuits and
gravy, while they visited with friends and acquaintances they've
made over the years.
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In the kitchen, Mary Riddle, who was in charge of that portion of
the day, worked side by side with several volunteers keeping food
and drinks going out to hungry, thirsty and cold customers.
Riddle said that she really appreciated everyone who volunteered
and that there were so many she hesitated to name them for fear of
She also added that this year when they were looking for
volunteers, they sought out several of the younger folks in the area
and were pleased to no end when many agreed to help.
She emphasized that the future of the event and the community
center revolves around getting the younger generations interested
Riddle said that the turnout for food was tremendous, citing that
they ran out of biscuits before noon. While the biscuit bakers kind
of lost count at 1,000, she knows they went well beyond that number.
She also said that the "hot item" of the day was the hot chocolate.
In addition to the food in the basement, there was a concession
stand outside that offered beverages and sandwiches for the
die-hards who couldn't bear to leave the action, and during the week
of the auction they sold meat and cheese.
In a consignment auction, those who bring in the items to sell
get the lion's share of the proceeds. The balance of the auction
revenue, along with the proceeds from the food, goes to support the
community center building and center activities.
Riddle said that insurance and utilities to keep the building
open take up a lot of the annual budget. She explained that
insurance costs are higher because they have an outdoor playground,
which is open to the public.
This past year though, there was enough money in the coffers to
do some remodeling on the building. They replaced the old
boiler-style furnace, added air conditioning, replaced some windows
and put fresh paint on the walls.
She said that the building is always available for rent, not only
the kitchen area, but rooms on the second floor as well, and it is
generally booked well in advance.
Other things that are done with the money they raise include
community activities. For example, they host a community Halloween
party each October and have a community potluck in December with a
special guest of honor, Santa Claus, in attendance with treats for
In addition, the community building is offered free of charge to
families in bereavement. Sue Stewart, who also serves on the
community board, said that she feels this is one of the most
important things they do at the center. Having a clean, spacious
area for families to gather after a funeral allows those families
the opportunity to relax, enjoy a good meal, fellowship with friends
and family, and reminisce about their lost loved one.
In an article published in November by LDN, the community of Lake
Fork was called "mighty" -- mighty small, mighty friendly and mighty
determined to keep its residents close-knit and its little community
center open and available to anyone who has need of it.
This is still a correct description of the town and its people,
who show by example what can be accomplished when a community is
determined to stay strong in spite of its size.
[By NILA SMITH]
Related past article