by Joe Bollig
WETMORE — If you always wanted to bid on a Vermeer, then St. James Parish here on Dec. 3 was the place to be.
No, not THAT Vermeer.
A painting by the 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer WAS NOT sold at the annual St. James consignment auction. Rather, it was another genuine Vermeer — a Vermeer WR22 10-wheel hay rake.
The Vermeer and a lot of farm, farm-related and construction equipment were sold at the auction, which is the major annual fundraiser for this small, rural parish of about 30 families in Nemaha County.
This was a great, although cold, time for an auction according to Tim Rowland, St. James parishioner and auction volunteer.
“We have a big agriculture draw, and we feel this is a good time,” he said. “It’s not planting, it’s not harvesting, it’s not haying season. Hopefully, people are coming in with end-of-year money to spend. And we have really good pies.”
Ah, yes, there is the fundraising breakfast and dinner in the warm parish hall. They had locally produced pork for the breakfast of biscuits and gravy, and locally produced beef for the hamburgers. The pies were homemade.
“The pecan pies were made with pecans from southeast Kansas,” said Rowland.
Smaller items were sold from big, gooseneck trailers in the church parking lot. Larger items were sold from two vacant lots near the church.
There was the big stuff: combines, mowers, several pickup trucks, a semi-truck, tractors and trailers. There was a brush auger, no-till seed drills, plows, rotary cutters and squeeze chutes.
Need an ambulance? One was for sale.
There were no baroque paintings but there was art at the auction — a statue of the Three Stooges playing golf.
There were a lot of other smaller things for sale, too: chairs, doors, bolts, an antique buffet, buckets of belts and bolts, cassette tapes, CDs, air compressors, fence posts, filing cabinets, firewood, hay, nails, a saxophone, a talking Teddy Ruxpin, a typewriter, windows and more. And there were tools, tools and more tools.
No doubt every item had its unknown backstory. For example, what about the box with all those empty Crown Royal whiskey bottle bags?
For years, the major fundraiser for the parish was its annual picnic. It was OK, but didn’t bring in much. The idea for a consignment auction was more of an afterthought.
“What started the first auction [in 2010] was when I became executor of my mom and dad’s estate,” said Bill Burdick, parishioner and co-organizer of the auction.
“They farmed for a living. When they both passed away, they had older machinery,” he said. “I didn’t think there was enough of it, and enough newer stuff, to attract a lot of people. So, I went to the parish council and said, ‘What do you think about having a St. James consignment auction? So, everybody approved it, and that’s how we got started.”
And the auctions have been incredibly successful. The reason for this, said Burdick, is the big items — the farm machinery.
The auction draws interest from across Kansas and parts of Nebraska and Missouri, according to auction co-organizer Ron Burdiek. On the day of the auction, he and other auction volunteers took remote bids over the phone from faraway bidders.
Being a consignment sale, the parish got a portion of the item sold on a sliding scale, depending on the size of its value. Some items were simply donated, and the parish got 100% of the sale price. Last year, the parish raised about $42,000, said Joyce Burdiek, wife of Ron and record keeper.
Both co-organizers predicted that the sale this year would be great, possibly the biggest one yet, thanks to three major contributors.
The first was the estate of parishioner Tracey L. Hasenkamp, who died on Aug. 20. The second and third were Frank and Linda Engelken, who retired and were divesting themselves of equipment from their company, F&L Construction.
Proceeds from the auction have benefited the parish in a number of ways. These have included the construction of a breezeway between the church and the parish hall and the religious education classrooms added to the church basement.
“These things have exploded; they’re so much bigger than anything I could have possibly imagined,” said Father Jaime Zarse, who is pastor of St. James Parish, Sacred Heart Parish in Sabetha and St. Augustine, Fidelity.
“What began as a summer picnic has become a summer picnic and a consignment auction,” he said. “And the consignment auction is dwarfing the picnic at this point. It’s wildly successful. The number of items on this sale bill is huge, and it’s just a fraction of what’s in the lot.”
Of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without the volunteers.
In addition to the above-named organizers, volunteers were required to transport, load and unload auction items, issue and track the bidder numbers, grill the hamburgers, and cook and serve up the breakfast and dinner.
The professional auctioneers who donated their talents and equipment were Wayne and Craig Wischropp, Rodney Burdiek, Cody Askren and Cole Pitts.
To view more photos from the auction, click here.
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