Saturday’s livestock auction at the Washington Fair is a tradition. It’s popular, especially for the rural youths who exhibit livestock and then sell their animals at the Blue Ribbon auction.

The auction will get under way at noon. It always draws a large crowd.

What keeps it going are the buyers. Every year there are new buyers who bid along with some people and companies who have bought animals ever since the auction began in the 1950s. It was small in the beginning, but like many events it has grown in popularity as the years have passed. Buyers consistently pay more than what the market price is, and the exhibitors really appreciate that fact. It keeps them coming back Fair after Fair.

The auction can last for five hours and most of the buyers are there at the end. The weather has been hot before so this year is nothing new as to heat conditions.

The auction began for a couple of reasons. The Fair organizers wanted to encourage youngsters to raise top quality livestock. Another focus was on the learning experience that it provides for rural youth. They learn the cost of preparing an entry and the time it takes. Money earned by countless youngsters down through the Fair years has helped pay for their college educations. Many will tell you the profit earned goes into their saving accounts. That alone is a valuable learning experience — saving for a worthwhile cause.

We have marveled at the members of the Fair Livestock Committee for the work they do. The livestock shows and auction are operated in a very professional manner. Committee members, many of whom have been regulars at the Fair for decades, know what has to be done and they get the job accomplished, Fair after Fair. To handle the livestock judging and the auction is like many other operations at the Fair, there are unlimited details that have to be tended to, and the checklist is large.

The 2011 livestock auction had total sales of $338,067. That amount was higher than 2010. The record was set in 2006 when bidders paid a total of $420,085. Any way you look at it, the auction is a major Fair event. Buying a Blue Ribbon champion is a great way to advertise for a buyer.

The number of girls showing animals and selling them at the auction has been on the increase.

Of note is that 1 percent of the gross auction sale goes for scholarships. Exhibitors must apply for a scholarship. Six scholarships were awarded last year.

The livestock exhibitors never forget the Fair. They more than many other fairgoers have memories locked in their minds, and which are unlocked on a pretty regular basis. We know because we have talked to a number of adults who had the livestock judging and auction experiences. Their children and grandchildren now are enjoying those experiences.