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story.lead_photo.caption Maggie Thessen, near, helps her older sister, Sophie, move ham and bacon to the near end of the table for easy retrieval by FFA staff. All of the bacon and ham that was available at Friday's annual Cole County Fair Ham and Bacon Auction were set out on tables and one by one shown by the person who cured the meat. The sisters are involved in the Wardsville 4-H Club. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Participants, families and onlookers at an annual Ham and Bacon Breakfast and Auction observed a moment of silence for Mike "Pee Wee" Forck before beginning their celebration of pork products early Friday morning.

News of the former Cole County Eastern District commissioner's death came out earlier this week. Forck, who ran a farm and served on the County Commission and the Cole County Extension Council for years, was a regular participant in the auction.

Despite the loss, attendees of the auction were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief. It was a return to the old normal.

Last year's event was moved to the Jefferson City Jaycees Fairgrounds and combined with the sale of live animals.

This year's event returned to the Missouri Farm Bureau offices, where youths could highlight their products.

For 2021, Cole County 4-H and FFA students raised more than $32,250, which they'll use for video games, first cars, educations, contributions to good causes and more.

Ava Nilges, whose bacon slab auctioned off for $600, and her brother, Blaine Nilges, whose bacon auctioned off for $550 each announced before bidding that half their earnings were to be donated to Wonderland Camp.

The event featured 78 students, offering 50 hams and 28 bacon slabs.

Gallery: Jefferson City Jaycees Cole County Fair 2021

Trevor Borgmeyer's grand champion ham brought in $600 — from winning bidder and Cole County Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman. Bushman said the ham was really a purchase from the entire commission.

Another commissioner, Jeff Hoelscher, bought Callie Lock's ham for $550.

Melanie Loesch's grand champion bacon went for $350 to state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, a regular at the event.

Bernskoetter said he tried to get his children involved in 4-H, but they weren't that interested. The interest skipped a generation and went to his grandchildren, he said.

"I love 4-H. I did 4-H when I was a kid," Bernskoetter said. "I love what 4-H does for the youths. It's a great program. Kids stay busy with their projects and their animals."

Heritage Tractors bought VanKeaton Forck's bacon for $475. The Helias student's family owns a farm near Taos, he said.

"This is my sixth consecutive year selling here," Forck said. "Last year, I sold a grand champion bacon."

Forck said he's been curing bacon for a couple of years, but has been involved in the auction for about six years.

"Judging changes every year. I haven't quite figured out how they judge bacons. How they judge hams is by the stiffness," he said. "And how moldy it is."

The curing takes a couple of months, he said, but there is really only about a day's work in a ham.

Caden Farris said he was grateful to folks at Central Bank who bought his country cured ham for $400.

The ham was his first in competition, he said.

"Pretty proud of it," Farris said.

He plans on curing more hams in the future, Farris said, mainly because of the money.

"It's good experience and fun," he added.

Allie Brizendine, a Capital City High School student, sold her ham to state Rep. Rudy Veit for $275. It did a lot better than she expected, Brizendine said.

She said she'll probably reinvest the money in her Supervised Agriculture Experience project.

"Every member in FFA has to have one. It's like a miniature business," she said. "Right now, I am raising blackberries."

The money will probably be used for nutrients and soil care for the blackberries, Brizendine said.

Veit said he bought four items. He also always give them back to the children. He pointed out that Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe outbid him on one.

"This is a great place to come in second at," Veit said.

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