Pig auction at fair to raise money for memorial pavilion

CENTREVILLE — The St. Joseph County Fair has importance to many people and families in the county. However, for Jerry Waltke, it was more than important.

Waltke, a resident of Burr Oak, was involved for a number of years with both the fair and 4-H. As a kid, he showed animals at the fair, and in his adult years was a 4-H leader in the county, serving as the open class beef superintendent for many years. In 2021, he was the president of the fair’s board of directors.

“He was a very caring and supportive person and willing to help out anybody,” Erin Sherman, Waltke’s daughter, said. “The fair was everything to him. He looked forward to it every year.”

Waltke passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 5, 2021 at the age of 60. This week, his family looks to give back to the fair he loved with a memorial pavilion in his honor, and will be raising funds for it during the fair in a unique way.

On Thursday, Sept. 22, a pig will be auctioned off during the large animal livestock auction event, with all proceeds helping to pay for the pavilion. The 88-foot-long pavilion, which the family hopes will be completed by next year’s fair, will cover the wash rack and extra grass lot between the 4-H cattle barn and the Open Class cattle barn, barns 29 and 30.

“We showed calves when we were in 4-H, and on Tuesday mornings if it was raining, you’d wash in the rain because there was no cover over that area,” Sherman said. “I thought, what better to do than to put a cover over that area and get the 4-Hers out of the weather on Tuesday mornings.”

The latest quote Sherman received priced the pavilion at around $40,000 to build, but she said she expects costs to go up due to the rising cost of materials. The pavilion is expected to be an open-sided building with a roof that will connect between the two barns and cover the area.

Sherman said the idea to do something in memory of her father was mostly born out of conversations she had with people after his passing last year who were wondering if there would be anything done for a memorial, but the main reason was an unexpected gift Waltke had purchased for his granddaughter, 8-year-old Brynleigh Sherman, before his passing: pigs.

“We found out at his visitation and funeral that he had actually purchased pigs for my daughter from a gentleman already, with the intentions of her showing at the state line show that’s held at the fair during the summer,” Erin Sherman said. “After we found that out, we knew we already had the opportunity to have some pigs, so we decided that we were going to come to the fair and my daughter was going to show, which would be his granddaughter, and we were going to do a memorial of some sort.”

One of those pigs, a 7-month-old crossbreed, will be the pig auctioned, with Brynleigh donating the pig for the effort. Erin said her daughter feels good about donating the pig, adding that Brynleigh also wanted to do a bit more to help raise money for the cause.

“We show cattle too and have done a few open shows with our daughter doing well in showmanship. Last night, she actually asked us if she could take her prize money from that to donate,” Erin said. “She’s only 8 years old, so for an 8-year-old to do that, we were pretty taken away by that.”

Erin said it feels special to be able to do the auction, which was her and her husband Kyle’s idea to do, and that her father would be proud of them for doing it.

“It’s overwhelming, and it feels good at the same time. We’ve had a lot of people show us a lot of support, and that’s meant a ton,” Erin said. “He would be proud, but at the same time he’d be complaining because we’re making all this fuss.”

The large animal livestock auction at the fair begins at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Henningsen Show Arena at the fairgrounds. There is no definitive time when the pig will be auctioned during the event.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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