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Livestock auction, fair food bring people to Houghton fairgrounds

Roman Zeise of Skerbeck Entertainment delivers fair food to Karin Schlenker of Hancock's car Saturday afternoon. (Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — The Houghton County Fair may have been canceled for 2020, but some sparks of the fair experience remained.

The annual junior market livestock auction went on as usual Saturday afternoon, while Skerbeck Entertainment set up a drive-through sale for fair foods on what would normally be the midway.

For Saturday’s junior market livestock auction, 27 children displayed the steers, lambs and hogs they’d spent months raising, sometimes back to last fall. Their animals brought in more than $45,000 for the sale, which the children put towards future college expenses or their next animals.

Many of the species set record amounts for price per pound, said fair board member Carol Saari.

The livestock sale went forward for the sake of the children, many of whom had been raising their animal for months by the time the fair was cancelled in June.

“Especially the steer kids, who bought theirs last November,” Saari said. “We kept thinking it would get better because our fair was so late in the season … everybody here was very excited to be able to come.”

Kate Palosaari, 8, of Chassell was in her first year at the auction. Her pig went for $9.25 per pound. The toughest part of auction was getting the pig in the trailer, she said.

“They got loose so much,” she said.

She liked being able to watch all the animals. Her mother, Karen, was also happy to see the auction go on.

“It’s a good way to raise money for their future,” she said. “It teaches kids responsibility, and it’s a good way to plan ahead and make decisions.”

Daisy Zawada, 9, of Elo, started raising her lamb this May. She thought not having a fair surrounding the auction made it easier this year.

“There’s no fair rides and you’re focusing on your animal,” she said.

Getting the lamb ready for auction meant walking it every day and giving it frequent baths, as well as giving it food and water every few hours.

Zawada’s lamb went for $7.75 per pound, at a weight of 117 pounds.

“I’m going to save it for when I’m older,” she said.

It will be easier being done with the auction, Zawada said. But when the truck comes to pick up her lamb, “it’s going to be sad,” she said.

Skerbeck Entertainment, which usually operates the carnival operations at the fair, began setting up drive-through fair food booths back in May, when fairs downstate began looking for safe options, said co-owner Niki Skerbeck.

“We reached out to our fair partners in Houghton County to see if they’d be interested, and they were,” she said. “It’s just a safe way for people to enjoy the fair this year.”

As cars pulled up, they filled out an menu where they chose from among a variety of fair food: elephant ears, caramel apples, corn dogs and more. People never left their car; instead, Skerbeck carhops went to each booth and brought the items back.

Friday night brought rain; Saturday afternoon, wind. But with people not having to get out, it didn’t stop them from showing up, Skerbeck said.

Elisa Cowling made the drive up from Ishpeming, loading up on cotton candy, hot dogs and fries.

“We’ve missed out on fair food,” she said.

It feels good to provide people with a semblance of normalcy, Skerbeck said.

“I think we were all worried and nervous when everything started getting canceled, and just the fact that we can operate at all makes us extremely happy,” she said.

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