Farm Horizons, Feb. 2005

Auction: another word for family

By Heidi Stutelberg

No one is a stranger on a Wednesday at the Hotovec Auction Center in Hutchinson.

In fact, it seems that time stands still as friends and neighbors from all over the area converge to enjoy home-cooked food and to find treasures during the usual Wednesday morning auction.

“It’s just a place where friends have met like family,” commented auctioneer and owner Gary Hotovec, who always seems to have a smile on his face. 

Some of the customers have been coming to the auction center for some 50 years, since they were children.For some, “It’s like coming to the county fair,” Hotovec said.

Any given week may find antiques, collectibles, and other miscellaneous items offered for sale for those who care to look. 

Those who work up an appetitite there may visit the Stockmen’s Café, located in the same building, for some delicious home cooking, including superb lemon meringue pie.

Besides pies, there are also cinnamon and sweet rolls, cookies, soups, commercials, (beef, pork, and turkey), short orders, and, of course, plenty of hot coffee.

The antiques and collectibles auction starts at 10 o’clock. 

At noon – for those who want to make a day of it – the hay, straw, and firewood are auctioned off outside. 

The hay permeates the air, giving a comfortable ambiance to auction goers.

At one o’clock, the livestock auction brings auction-goers back inside.

First come the little pigs, lambs and calves, then the larger pigs, sheep, heifers, and steers, as they are auctioned off. 

There are wooden bleachers on both sides of the auction pen so everyone has a good seat.

The auction center initially opened in 1934 as a livestock market, making it the oldest running livestock market in Minnesota. 

People from 150 miles away – South Dakota, northern Iowa, and northern Minnesota will come to the Hotovec Auction Center, since there are so few auction centers in existence.

Hotovec  has owned the auction center since 1994. Seeing the decline of the livestock market, the auctioning of antiques, collectibles, and estates sales was added to the Wednesday auctioning agenda.

“The hog business is almost non-existent, it’s pretty much corporate,” Hotovec commented.

Twenty-five years ago, 300 to 500 feeder pigs would go through every week. 

“A lot of dairy has disappeared,” he added, and went on to say that the market has gone from cows and baby calves to lightweight feeders, both dairy and beef.

On a lighter note, when asked what was one of the strangest things ever auctioned off, Hotovec said, “Emus – they wouldn’t move.  They just stood there and looked at you.”

One of the most expensive items ever sold was a piece of Roseville pottery that went for $1,056.

In April, the auction hours change to an evening schedule, with the first auction starting at 4 p.m.  The busiest months are from April through November, with as many as 500 people attending the three auctions on a Wednesday night.

Twenty-two employees work at the auction center preparing for the event of each week. They also are able to handle off-site auctions as well.

For more information, contact Gary Hotovec at (320) 587-3347.

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