‘You have to get people motivated’

Published 10:53 am Saturday, January 16, 2010

LYLE — They’ve sold a coat hanger for $20 and a jar of pickles for $600, but they’re far from being swindlers.

These auctioneers have donated their time to sell items and help the Lyle Area Cancer Auction raise more than $100,000 every year since 2004.

More than 10 auctioneers were there Friday and Saturday at the 31st Lyle Area Cancer Auction. The auctioneers work in hour long shifts, and most auctioneers work multiple shifts.

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The auctioneers don’t pressure people into a purchase, auctioneer Dave Thompson said. There’s a lot of cheering and encouragement.

One year, Thompson sold a coat hanger for $20. He also sold a jar of pickles for $600, and the buyer opened the jar and passed the pickles to other people in the crowd.

Some people buy an item and give it back to be sold again, auctioneer Tiny Johnson said.

To keep people involved, auctioneer Mick Brooks works to keep the momentum up by telling stories and jokes, Brooks said.

“We’re here having fun,” Brooks said. “We’re raising money for cancer research. That’s what it’s all about.”

Auctioneers not only set the tone for the auction, they also set the pace.

In recent years, Brooks and Thompson have worked cleanup at the very end, which means they close the auction and sell the remaining items quickly by combining items and speeding up the process.

At the same time, Brooks said auctioneers need to slow the event down when it’s busy and people are telling of their family’s experience with cancer.

Brooks has donated his auctioneering skills for 23 years. Both his parents died of cancer. He participates in the program because it’s fun, and because he can help raise money to find a cure for cancer.

Johnson, whose wife, Lucille, died of cancer, said he makes sure people are having fun when he’s selling.

“It’s just a fun night. It’s here to make money and hope we can get a cure for cancer,” he said.

Johnson said he used to take “bids” from people who actually didn’t bid, and he’d even sell an item to someone who didn’t bid as a joke.

“You have to get the people motivated,” Johnson said.

At one point Friday, Thompson walked through the crowd and a person yelled hello to him.

“It’s like a reunion,” Thompson said.

Thompson has been participating in the auction for about 10 years.

While the auction is a fun time to catch up, the auction has a somber mood as well. People will tell stories of loved ones affected by cancer.

“I think (chairman) Larry Ricke says it best: ‘It’s an auction like none other,’ ” Thompson said.

Thompson said it’s unique because everyone is donating their time to the effort.

“It’s a joint effort by everyone. It’s beautiful. It’s like nothing else,” he added.

A followup story on the cancer auction, complete with the total amount raised during the weekend, will appear in Monday’s paper.