The curtain came down Friday on the Lebanon County 4-H Livestock Club season with the annual Youth Large Market Animal Sale at the Lebanon Area Fair. 

Supported by numerous local ag- and non-ag-related businesses, the sale is the culmination of the hard work the members of the Lebanon County 4-H Livestock Club do to bring their animals — steers, hogs, and lambs — to market. 

Fulton Bank was the high bidder for the grand champion market lamb, raised and shown by 17-year-old Gavin Molnar, of Grantville. 

Fulton Bank purchased the Grand Champion Market Lamb, which was raised and shown by Gavin Molnar, of Grantville. (James Mentzer)

Mike Firestine, Senior Vice President of Fulton Bank, cited the work ethic of the club members. The club also includes FFA chapter members for those individuals who are between the age of 18 and 21.

“It’s important to support our youth because they are our agricultural future,” said Firestine. “We believe our future is right here in 4-H and FFA, and their work ethic is beyond compare. When you go onto their farms, you’re looking at a day-to-day operation where it is 95-degree temperatures and high humidity, and they are in there working with their animals, getting them ready for the sale, so that’s why we support our youth.”

Molnar had a double grand champion winner, as his crossbred market hog was purchased by Dave Brown, of Trevose, Bucks County. Molnar said he was appreciative of all of the individuals and businesses who financially support not only him but all of the club members, who sold a total of 270 animals during the sale.

“I, and all of the club members, really appreciate all of the community support from those who come out to the sale,” said Molnar, who is the son of Matt and Roxanne Molnar. “It’s really fun to see and experience.”

Gavin Molnar shows his Grand Champion Market Lamb as auctioneer Harry Bachman, left, calls for bids at the annual Youth Large Market Animal Sale on Friday at the Lebanon Area Fair. (James Mentzer)

Prior to the start of the sale, Scott Sechler, President and CEO of Bell & Evans, Fredericksburg, told LebTown his company — which has also provided the meat for the annual 4-H Chicken BBQ fundraiser for the past three fairs — believes it’s vital to support current and future farmers. 

“Lebanon County may not be our biggest market, but it is one that is important to us, and we want to support our current farmers and these young people who are the future of agriculture,” said Sechler.

Sechler later demonstrated that support when his company purchased the grand champion market steer that was exhibited by James Voight, of Fredericksburg. 

Voight, the son of Del and Lori Voight, had a friend show his market steer in the sales ring since he was at State College at tryouts for the college’s football team. Voight, who will attend Penn State University this fall, previously told LebTown the sale helps support the future endeavors of club members in “different ways.”

Just prior to auctioneer Harry Bachman’s gavel dropping to launch the sale, 4-H members gathered at the front of the ring for the annual club photo. 

Read More: Livestock sales, 4-H membership benefit youths now and in the future

Included in the photo shoot was Margaret Wenger, who has generously paid for the annual club dues of all members — a tradition started by her husband, Carl, who founded the family-owned business in 1947. As the youth came to the front for the shoot, it was announced that the Wenger family was paying dues for the 2023-24 club season. 

4-H club members gather for a photo opp prior to the sale of their large market animals at the Lebanon Area Fair. Included is Margaret Wenger of Wengers of Myerstown. (James Mentzer)

“Carl started it years ago and bought each one of the youths a $25 bond,” said Margaret. “Banks don’t sell them anymore, so he started paying the dues. Carl’s not here anymore, but I would like to continue doing this for as long as I can. It was something Carl believed in. I don’t know when it started, but it has been happening for many years.”

An hour before the sale, the air inside the North Hall was almost as charged as a storm that later dropped rain on fairgoers. 4-H members worked the room, thanking those they had invited to attend for coming to the sale. Numerous 4-H members provided their sale numbers to their supporters and reiterated their appreciation to the buyers.

At the back of the hall, volunteers manned the food station that offered a plethora of food for the buyers, 4-H members, and event guests. Pulled pork — which was the first to run out — was the most popular item, but the hamburger barbeque, pulled chicken, sausage, and meatballs were just as delicious. Cheese trays, along with a variety of chips, other snacks, homemade desserts, and beverages were more than enough food to feed a small army.

4-H volunteers provide the buffet to attendees to thank them for their support of the youths, according to Debbie Tice, 4-H Program Assistant of Penn State Extension Lebanon.   

For Molnar, the months and months of hard work that proceeded the sale was not an end but the beginning of the new club year, which he believes will be just as enjoyable as the one that was capped on Friday.

“The money I receive from this sale will be used to purchase next year’s animals,” he said, “so I can keep on having fun in 4-H.”

The grand and reserve champion exhibitors, their respective hometowns, and the buyers are: 

Grand Champion Market Steer

James Voight, Fredericksburg; Bell & Evans, Fredericksburg

Reserve Champion Market Steer

Hayden Weaver, Ephrata; Fulton Bank, Lebanon and Congressman Dan Meuser, R-9th District

Grand Champion Market Hog

Gavin Molnar, Grantville; Dave Brown, Trevose

Reserve Champion Market Hog

James Voight, Fredericksburg; Bur-Pak Family Foods, Myerstown

Grand Champion Market Lamb

Gavin Molnar, Grantville; Fulton Bank, Lebanon

Reserve Champion Market Lamb

Brett Erb, Bethel; Bell & Evans, Fredericksburg   

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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...