MOUNT VERNON — Every year, bidders at the fair’s youth livestock auctions willingly pay above market value, sometimes double or triple an animal’s worth, for the benefit of local kids. The generous profits usually go back into these childrens’ bank accounts to fund future projects or go towards college tuition.
Five years ago, a group of teens decided they wanted to pass that generosity on to their peers and the next generation. The result was the Aisle Club.
“We were all just sitting around the barn… It was right before the sale and we were like, ‘What if we all contribute a little money? It’d be nice to give back to the fair that’s helped us so much,” said19-year-old Jessica Small, a founding member of the group.
By pooling their money, Small and four other teens were able to purchase an animal from the auction. They’ve kept the momentum going ever since, adding new members and purchasing one or two animals each year.
This year, they managed to recruit 17 kids, all of whom contributed $100 of their own fair earnings to bid on others’ projects. The results were unprecedented — the Aisle Club had enough to purchase two dairy feeders, two goats and a lamb.
One of this year’s new members was seventeen-year-old Taylynn Morningstar. Taylynn said the kindness of family friends inspired her to join the group.
“There’s a lot of kids around here that don’t necessarily know as many people as we do. We have the Smalls, who are our best friends, and they buy a lot of animals,” she said. “A lot of these young kids don’t have that, so they need someone to bid on their animal that’s just here to help them out.”
Taylynn’s brother, Cade, is also a first year member of the group.
“I wanted to help out the younger kids, give them something to remember so that they’ll wanna do the same thing when they get older,” said the 18-year-old.
The group is called the Aisle Club because members often bid on animals they’ve pre-selected while strolling down the aisles of the show barns.
“We will walk through the barns and look for the kids who care a lot about their projects, keep their pens clean, already have thank you signs for their buyer…the kids that are dedicated to their project and dedicated to the fair,” said Jessica.
The group tries to reward those with outstanding projects, as well as those who are just starting out.
“Sometimes we’ll bid on projects just to get the bidding started and get them a higher price,” said Jessica. “We definitely want to get them over the buy back bid. Obviously we can’t go as much as some, but we like to try to get them a good average amount.”
Since everyone in the club has shown animals before, they know how good it feels to sell a project at a good price.
“It makes you feel like someone actually believes in you and knows that you put so much work into this,” Taylynn explained.
Aisle Club members agreed that meeting the kids they purchase from after the auction is the most rewarding part of the endeavor.
“When the kid comes up, usually crying, and thanks us for buying their animal… We know how much it means to them,” said Cassidy Small, a founding member and rising senior at Fredericktown High School. “It’s really heartwarming to see the kids actually come up to us and thank us personally.”