Fur and feather sale marks milestone

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Kevin Hoffman
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
— Art and Joan Duerst stood in a light rain outside the Wiswell Center at the Walworth County Fair, amazed at what they’ve helped accomplish over the last 35 years.

It seemed not that long ago that the annual fur and feather sale was nothing more than a few spectators and a handful of farm animals, the Elkhorn couple said. Nothing like the spectacle Monday, when more than 100 people gathered around bellowing ducks and turkeys, bidding on the fair’s most prized poultry.

“It’s done really good,” said Art Duerst, as a line of goats made their way past him toward the auctioning stage. “They didn’t have the goats (back then). Just ducks, turkeys, chicken and geese.”

The Duersts were recognized before Monday’s event for bringing the auction to the Walworth County Fair in 1975. Back then, the meat sale always brought thousands of dollars to owners, but the children with prize-winning chickens or turkeys only got a few dollars, Art Duerst said.

“Nobody ever paid any attention to the winning poultry,” he said. “I felt sorry for those kids.”

The fur and feather auction allows the county FFA and 4-H members to sell their blue-ribbon animals for a profit. Sometimes, the animals are resold, in which case the money is used for a scholarship fund.

The Duersts, who own Swiss Folk Farm in Elkhorn, usually buy some of the animals. Their children were involved in the event when it first started, and they watched their grandkids participate during the last couple years.

Six $1,000 scholarships were awarded during this year’s sale. Joan Duerst said organizers established the scholarship fund because people would buy animals to help the sellers but not actually want to keep them.

Allyson Jaeck of East Troy had seven rabbits and two pigs at the Walworth County Fair. The 14-year-old spent about an hour preparing one of her rabbits, which includes feeding, molting and even using baby wipes to clean stains off its white coat.

“They have to be in good show quality, and it depends on the judge because sometimes they don’t like a particular breed,” said Jaeck, a member of the Lake Beulah 4-H.

Her rabbit won a blue ribbon and sold for $375.

Jaeck has shown animals at the fair for the last three or four years, she said. Her two pigs also sold earlier in the week, and this was the first time she participated in the fur and feather sale.

“It was a whole new experience,” she said. “I like how fast it is.”

More than 120 animals were auctioned Monday, many of which will be processed for their meat.

Last updated: 3:02 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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