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NOW UP FOR BIDS — Above, Jesse Quam hoists one of the many items auctioned off during the 28th Annual Geneva Cancer Auction that wrapped up Saturday at Geneva Bar and Grill. (Star Eagle photo by Kathy Paulsen)


Staff Writer

He called it the “people’s auction" as Whitey Hagen opened the Geneva Cancer Auction Friday, Jan. 13.

"It's the people in our area that know how to raise money for cancer research,” said Hagen. “It's the people who continue to donate and contribute to this great cause that keep these events going and money coming in to help fund a cure for cancer."

The 28th annual two-weekend event wrapped up Saturday at Geneva Bar & Grill.

Friday started with a jar of Vi Blazek's prize pickles, now made by her daughter, Sue Hill. Vi was instrumental in the early auction days with jars of her famous pickles, homegrown from her own patch and made with loving care. Sadly, Vi succumbed to cancer, but her legacy carries on through the loving efforts of her daughter, Sue, and this year her great granddaughter, Jade, contributed to the auction with her very first pickle donation, and it raised $60. Many years ago Vi had a jar of her pickles sell for $1,800.

Troy Hagen was the winning bidder of a jar of Sue Hill’s pickles, the first item up for bid Friday night. The cancer auction is noted for that: tradition; families and friends continuing to ever enlarge the efforts to fight this dreaded disease.

Frontier Communications is a big contributor, donating countless items for auction, and Frontier’s Darrell Hansen once again brought in a big one, former Viking Bob Lurtsema, two Vikings cheerleaders, Mary and Jacqui, and Vikings mascot Viktor.

Tanner Oquist, 7-year-old son of Tracy and Rhonda Oquist of Clarks Grove, is a loyal Viking fan and cancer care volunteer recruit. Tanner turned out for the event last year and was back this year with his football in hand, hoping "Benchwarmer Bob" would autograph it. He was joined by 3-year-old Finnegan Baumann, son of Ben and Meghan Baumann of Geneva.

There were pictures to take and autographs to sign. Adrian Peterson had autographed his #28 Vikings jersey and donated it to the auction. Lurtsema asked Tanner Oquist to model the jersey and it brought in $250. He also put on the red football cleats that had been donated, and they brought in $175. Later, there were Vikings hats from the Metrodome, with the numbers inside of which players had worn them.

Said Lurtsema, "It is always a pleasure. I enjoy helping and bring “It’s so much fun to meet the people and the fans,” Lurtsema said. “These are just big kids out here to laugh together. They have even started roasting each other already.”

ing hope. Damn, you guys are great. Life is just a bowl of cherries."

Waylen Busho said to the crowd, "He is a nice guy and he could play great football too."

Added Lurtsema, "And to think that this all started with a chicken," refreshing everyone’s memory of how Whitey first got involved with raising money for cancer.

Whitey said, "There is no easy way to fight cancer, but events like these take away some of the sting and give people a good feeling knowing they are not only helping the cause but enjoying an evening of good sportsmanship and camaraderie in the process."

A big thank you should be extended to the auctioneers who come year after year and work the crowd: Whitey of course, as well as Waylen Busho, Tracy Holland and Jim Manges. This year they were joined by Bret Walters of Racine.

Doug and Sandy Felt donated the proceeds from the pool tournament held in honor of their son, Matt, which totaled $1,000. It was also announced that the "Calendar Girls" had donated $500 to the cancer auction, even though they had not put together a new cancer calendar this year. "The girls" hoped to do one again next year.

Carl Anderson, who recently retired from 39 years on the Clarks Grove Fire Department, and a Frontier Communications employee, brought in a Frontier shovel and donated it to the auction, laughingly saying, "I'm the only one who ever used it." Brandon Wayne donated a signed Tony Olivia baseball which collected $115 and someone else donated a Jack Daniels pool stick which brought $125.

Geneva Meats and Steve's Smokey Acres again came up with a large collection of fresh meats and meat and cheese trays. Nickerson Farms donated hogs, processed by Nielsen processing, and Wagner Foods donated sausage.

There were many great T-Shirts, hats, gloves and "farmer tools," floodlights, afghans, quilts and pillows, Lia Sophia jewelry, along with many more great items. There were also gifts from Geneva Bar & Grill. In honor of that first chicken all those years ago, a dozen brown eggs from Sally Timms was auctioned. They brought in $60.

Whitey made special mention of butter maker Victor Mrotz, who brings "Hope" through cases of his outstanding quality Hope butter.

Virginia Hanson of Albert Lea was a winner on the golf course and she continues to win for the cancer cause in memorial. A great number of items were donated in her memory.

Whitey's parting thoughts on Friday night were, "I had no idea I would still be doing a Cancer Auction when I would be 80 years old. I thank the good Lord that I can still do it."

The auction resumed at 2 Saturday afternoon and included more great items up for bid.

Those in attendance Saturday were asked to remember Gene Millang, from Freeborn, who has been helping with the Geneva Cancer Auctions for years. Gene recently underwent cancer surgery at the VA Hospital. Gene called Whitey from the hospital on Saturday morning and asked him to say "Hi" to everyone for him.

Whitey also announced that two "Remembrance Bricks," had been donated and would be placed in the Veterans remembrance areas either in Albert Lea or Ellendale.

The first item up for bid Saturday was another of these great "stew makers," a bag of potatoes, a bag of onions, and a pound of Hope butter.

Three young girls, Natalie Aaseth, Grace Johns and Kallie Spooner, made a "Duct Tape" purse, as well as a matching wallet, credit card holder and pen and donated their creations. Morgan Blomberg returned to the auction on Saturday, bringing in more donations regarding her "Locks Of Love" gift during the first weekend of the auction. The donation for Morgan’s gift of love has reached over the $1,000 mark.

A unique bronze duck hunters sculpture raised $300. A few more sports items auctioned off included another Adrian Peterson jersey, a basket of Vikings items, including the #84 Jersey, as well as a Joe Mauer basket of Twins items.

Pictures taken from the Vikings visit on Friday night had been developed into 8x10 pictures, framed and auctioned.

The winner of the Eagle quilt made by Mary Harty in memory of her brother, Harley, was Tia Vogt of Albert Lea.

Other drawing winners were also announced late Saturday night. Travis Simon was the winner of the 51" Plasma HDTV w/Blu-Ray player. Tom Koranda won the $500 cash prize. Al Fredericks of Northwood, Iowa won $400; Hill & Vale $300; Wendy Thostenson Bogen of Owatonna, $200; and Jeff Brecke, from Iowa, $100.

Hagen made his yearly trip to Rochester on Sunday to the Eagles Cancer Telethon and proudly presented a check on behalf of the many great people from our area in the amount of $80,000 from the local cancer fundraising efforts.

Whitey said, "It is amazing what can be accomplished when good people work together for a cause."

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