Veteran auctioneer enjoys time at fair

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 15, 2001

ROME TOWNSHIP – "Are all the bids in.

Sunday, July 15, 2001

ROME TOWNSHIP – "Are all the bids in…sold!" Those were a few of the words county fair-goers heard from auctioneer Lee Johnson Friday evening and Saturday during the Lawrence County Fair Livestock Sale – the same words Johnson has been chanting for the last 38 years.

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Johnson said he began auctioneering when he was 14 years old but the auction items weren’t nearly as pricey as some of the items he now sells. "I started selling cakes and pies at school," Johnson mused.

The auctioneer said he wanted to go into the field since the first auction he attended as a child growing up on the family farm on Hannan Trace Road near Mercerville.

Once Johnson turned 17, he attended the Knotts Auction School in Gallipolis – a school that has now closed its doors.

In 1973, Johnson started selling at the Lawrence County Fair and since then, has become a mainstay at the event.

The auctioneer said he enjoys selling at the fair because he "likes to see the kids do well." He said the 4-H and Future Farmers of America projects are important to the kids and he tries to help the youth get more money out of their project.

"I like to see the kids make money from their project," Johnson said, "I know some of the money they earn will be put back for their college education."

Johnson should know how important it is to fair participants. His son, Dusty, a pre-med student at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., had participated in the fair showing both hogs and tobacco the entire time he was eligible to compete.

Johnson said some of the money Dusty made was saved and is being used to help offset the cost of college.

One of the questions Johnson is often asked is "what are you saying between the bid prices?"

The filler between the prices – called a chant – Johnson explained are a mix of words and sounds. He said he has developed a chant through practice and time and the chant used by auctioneers varies. "What works for some, won’t work for others," Johnson explained.

The fair isn’t the only auctioneering Johnson does, either. He operates Johnson’s Auction Service and conducts farm and estate sales throughout the area.

The fair isn’t Johnson’s only contact with the county. He was a teacher at Symmes Valley High School and his days at Symmes Valley spurned another auctioneer’s career.

Donnie Craft, a fair board members and a fellow auctioneer, was a student of Johnson at Symmes Valley and apprenticed under Johnson during his auctioneer training.

When asked how many auctions he conducts a year, Johnson said the number varies because auction sales have decreased in popularity.

Johnson reflected on his younger days in the business. "There used to be more farmers and they had more sales. Most of the farmers have gone now."