The auctioneers stood back to back, goading their audiences into bidding just a little bit higher.
The bidders, clustered on bleachers and standing in sole-deep sawdust, obliged.
The Benton Franklin Fair and Rodeo's market stock sale is about many things, but finding the best price on meat is not one of them.
"The people that are here support youth in agriculture and believe that's a very important thing for our future," said Dan Tano, a financial adviser with Waddell & Reed in Kennewick who had purchased two lambs by late Friday morning and planned to purchase one or two more before the day's end. "And it's a very important thing to learn individually and for our society."
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Thad Sturtevant, a regional manager with Commercial Tire, was more blunt.
"We'll buy a few animals, but we just want to bid the price up as much as possible," he said.
Both men, and many more like them, were buying animals on behalf of their businesses -- supporting their communities by supporting the youth.
The animals in this year's market stock sale generated about $806,000, and with add-ons -- extra donations kicked in for the kids -- the total should reach about $860,000, far outpacing last year's total. The 2013 sale brought in about $717,000.
The floor prices for beef and lamb outweighed last year's rates as well -- $1.30 for a pound of lamb and $1.52 for beef, up from 90 cents and $1.22, from last year's lamb and beef floor prices. At 64 cents per pound, pork fell a dime from last year's floor price, while goat dropped a nickel from $1.05 to $1.
Many of the 495 animals sold during Friday's market stock sale were "turned," or sold to a bidder who then sold the animal to a meat packer or processor at market value.
Turning allows bidders like Tano and Sturtevant to drive the per-pound price higher, which benefits the youth, before recouping some of the money through the sale to the packer or processor.
The bidders never see the meat, and that's fine by them.
"I would rather donate the money to the kid and turn the lamb," said Mike Pink of Pasco as he stood outside the sales rings. "That's basically all we're doing."
Pink, who operates Pink Farms, was looking to buy a couple of steers and a pig Friday. His daughters, Darbi and Delaney, were showing steers.
Delaney, 11, displaying wisdom beyond her years, was at peace with her steer's final destination, although it hadn't always been that way.
"Raising them for the first couple years -- that was hard," Delaney said of parting ways with the animal after the sale.
Lacey Desserault, 15, a Prosser High School sophomore, sold her 154-pound lamb for $12 a pound Friday. She described the sale as "bittersweet."
"You raise that lamb, and I've been with it its whole life," Desserault said. "It's a living, breathing thing and you take care of it."
Desserault has sold at least a dozen animals at fair auctions in the past seven years, she said. Half of them, including the lamb sold Friday, were grand champions. A small portion of her profit goes toward purchasing, feeding and caring for the next year's animals, but most of it is deposited into a bank account for college.
Desserault's biggest sale, however, was never meant for her savings fund. On Aug. 9, she showed a lamb at the Yakima Valley Fair and Rodeo, telling the audience that the proceeds would be donated to her agriculture teacher, who'd recently been diagnosed with cancer.
The lamb sold and sold and sold again -- 10 times in all. About $24,000 was raised.
"It was a complete surprise to our ag teacher," Desserault said. "There weren't many dry eyes."
That's the type of sentiment buyers like Sturtevant want to support.
"You just want to bid the price up so the kid is getting as much (money) as possible," Sturtevant said. "The kids work hard, and it's a good program."
-- Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; email@example.com
Saturday's fair events
10 a.m. -- Kid Zone opens.
Noon -- Davis Carnival rides open.
1 p.m. -- Disney star Zendaya performs on the main stage.
7 p.m. -- Horse Heaven Round-up starts in the rodeo arena.
7:30 p.m. -- Dustin Lynch on the main stage. Free with admission to the fair, reserved seats additional $10.
Fair hours: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
General admission: $13 ages 13 and older, $5 seniors and kids 12 and younger. Parking is $8.
More fair coverage: www.tricityherald.com/benton-franklin-fair