Despite rain, another succesful auction is in the books

First Posted: 7/14/2014

Foul weather bookended the 68th annual Back Mountain Memorial Library Auction, but with help from volunteers and an enthusiastic crowd, organizers are counting this year’s fundraiser a success.

From the stage, auctioneer Andrew Santora, 20, of Dallas rattled off numbers as he egged the crowd to bid higher.

The silver-tongued college junior started the bidding for a painting by art student Samantha Packer, 16, of Pringle, at $300, but no one took the bait.

As storm clouds loomed overhead, Santora worked the crowd down to $100 and, without skipping a beat, back up again to sell the painting that depicted this year’s auction scene for $270.

Rain began to fall as Santora introduced the painting by Dallas artist Sue Hand.

This is Hand’s 24th year painting for the auction; it was her second time using acrylic paint at the auction and it was her first time collaborating with area illustrator Mike Hiscox, of Dallas.

“It was nice. He could work on a couple detail areas, and I could work on the big picture,” Hand said of the collaboration.

The artist, known for her enormous portfolio with countless images depicting the region’s scenes and colors, painted to the auction’s theme this year — the year of the youth.

“All the kids in the foreground are real kids who really were here,” Hand said.

Last year Hand was diagnosed with Lyme disease and spent the days of the auction in the hospital dealing with the symptoms. She made no painting for that auction.

Hiscox had taken over to paint the auction’s top-selling item, but this year Hand resumed her position.

Santora started bidding for the Hand piece at $5,000. Maybe it was the rain that began to splash heavier and the crowd dragged him down to $1,000. Hand stood behind Santora grinning as he scolded the crowd for making him drop the price so low.

An electrifying bidding war ensued and, after a few minutes of back-and-forth, Joe Sholtis, of Lehman, won the painting, which shows children peering through a frame into the auction scene, for $3,100.

Sholtis later said he was eager to win the piece because his granddaughter, Julia, was one of the children to model for it.

Other goods that were brand new, slightly used or antique cluttered around the stage and the bidding continued despite the rain.

Auction Chairman Larry Long swirled his spoon in a dish of ice cream topped with strawberries and whipped cream and pointed to a brand new ping pong table, valued at around $600. He surmised the highest bidder on that certainly would walk away with a steal.

At the start of Sunday’s bidding, state Rep. Karen Boback and state Sen. Lisa Baker tag-teamed the auctioning on stage, gaining a few dollars here and there for oddities and antiques to be added to help the library continue serving Back Mountain residents with internet access and books for loan.

Long said usually on the last day, vendors selling things from tents surrounding the auctioneers stage would slash their prices and the Slightly Read Bookshop, which is below the main library building would sell select books at just $1 for a bag-full.

He couldn’t immediately guess how many vendors donated goods to auction off. They had sent out 850 inquiries to area business asking for one or two donated items. Long said they garnered rousing support.

Planning for the auction usually starts in October the year before. Long, who is retired, said he tries to fatten up the selection with interesting goods and sign on interesting vendors because, in the end, it’s not just a fundraiser.

“We also want to let people come out and have a good time,” Long said. “It’s kind of a trade-off.”

Support, too, came from members of Boy Scout Troop 281 who marched around the grounds in bright red shirts doing errands. The Scouts were on hand when a storm swept through the festival scene two days before the auction began when vendors were just beginning to raise their tents. The high winds brought many tent poles crashing to the ground.

Long-time auction volunteer Jim Snyder, who chairs the grounds committee, said despite the weather the crowds showed up in full-strength.

“Considering all that has happened, this has been one of our better years,” Snyder said.

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