2019 4-H Purple Ribbon Auction Scholarship Winners

The 2019 4-H Purple Ribbon Auction's $4,000 scholarship winners were: (L-R) Hannah Neil, Dakota County; Martha Moenning, Mower County; and Samuel Bobendrier, Pipestone County. They are pictured here with Extension staff during the Minnesota 4-H Purple Ribbon Auction. At least five-$4,000 scholarships will be awarded in 2020. Submitted photo.

While COVID-19 guidelines have made it impossible to hold the 2020 Minnesota State Fair, members of the Minnesota 4-H Purple Ribbon Auction committee want to do something for 4-H youth entering college.

They have designated more than $80,000 in scholarships for first- or second-year college students involved in 4-H animal science projects.

Show organizers are asking students to please visit mnpurpleribbonauction.org to learn more about the significant scholarships.

Applications must be received in the mail or delivered by Aug. 1, 2020, so there is only a short time left to apply.

“Because of COVID-19, and the limited face-to-face meetings and communication, we want to be assured that we reach every possible 4-H applicant by any means of communication we can,” said Frank Sullivan, Minnesota 4-H Purple Ribbon Auction chair.

Forty-one scholarships are being given away that total $1,000 or $2,000, and there will be at least five scholarships of $4,000 given away, as well.

Applicants must be in their first or second year of college and a Minnesota 4-H member. They must plan to attend an accredited college or university. Other requirements include completing an application that lists livestock projects, college and career plans, and extracurricular activities.

Brainstorming for a solution

The Minnesota State Fair will always list 2020 with an asterisk, a note that says the annual event was not held because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It joins five other years. In 1861 and 1862, the fair was not held because of the Civil War and U.S.-Dakota War. In 1893, the state fair conflicted with the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago and in 1945 the federal government limited travel because of WWII. The Minnesota State Fair was last not held in 1946 due to the polio epidemic – 74 years ago.

“When the state fair got cancelled, that was a pretty big announcement,” said Kent Thiesse, Minnesota 4-H Purple Ribbon Auction Finance chair. “It affects the whole state.”

For many 4-H and FFA members, the Minnesota State Fair represents the height of success, the ultimate project goal to attain.

In 2020, organizers have planned local, county, state and national livestock shows in the time of COVID-19, but those invested in youth have wanted to do more.

“We wanted to continue the 4-H Auction Scholarship program,” he said. “For some of these young people, this is their last chance to be eligible, so although the auction is cancelled, the scholarship program will continue.”

So Thiesse made a phone call to Raymond “Butch” Ames, to talk with him about the situation.

For many years, Ames Construction of Burnsville, has purchased the Minnesota State Fair Grand Champion Market Beef. In 2019, the heavy construction company purchased the winning steer for $40,000.

Ames offered to contribute the same amount – $40,000 – in 2020 to match donations for college scholarships instead.

Butch Ames grew up on a farm and was in business with his brother, Chester Ames, for many years. Although they built large projects across the nation, Ames Construction has kept their headquarters in Burnsville. The Ameses have been philanthropists for many years and support the Purple Ribbon Auction as just one of many organizations.

Past Purple Ribbon Auctions

Minnesota’s Purple Ribbon Auction would have celebrated its 41st year in 2020. Started in 1980, the auction was organized by the Minnesota Livestock Breeders’ Association.

Sullivan pointed out that Minnesota’s Purple Ribbon Auction deserves a grand champion among state fairs. In 2021, he expects the auction will sell ribbons from 111 market livestock exhibitors.

“There is no other fair that comes close,” he said.

In 2019, Minnesota’s auction raised over $750,000 from over 1,400 supporters.

Eighty percent of the winning bids are received by the 4-H’ers who exhibited the winning livestock. Twenty percent of the auction bids are used for 15-20 various youth development activities in 4-H, FFA and more.

These dollars also traditionally fund half of the 4-H scholarships. Since 1995, when the scholarship program was started, benefactors have provided $500, $1,000 or $2,000 gifts that are matched by the fund.

As of 2019, over $525,000 has been awarded to 390 deserving 4-H’ers entering college. The addition the 4-H scholarships was initiated by the late John Story, a long-time 4-H Auction supporter and committee member.

Sponsors of the $4,000 scholarships for 2020 include Cargill Animal Nutrition, Cor-Trust Bank, O’Sullivan Auctioneers and O’Sullivan Cattle, Inc., and Don McClure Sky Ride. Each of these donations was matched by Ames Construction.

So why does everyone going to all of the trouble of providing scholarships in 2020?

It’s because the need for higher education financial assistance hasn’t changed.

The mission of the Purple Ribbon Auction committee is to develop youth, and that’s also the goal of the scholarship program.

“We need them,” said Sullivan, speaking of youth in 4-H, and the role they will play in the future. “The whole Purple Ribbon Auction committee is, bar none, made up of people that firmly believe the future of agriculture lies in our youth.”

For more information, please visit mnpurpleribbonauction.com/scholarship. Scroll down for the application form.

In addition, another scholarship opportunity is available to rural youth or those enrolled in an ag program in 2019-20. Please visit mnstatefair.org/about-the-fair/awards-and-recognition to learn more about 21 scholarships of $1,000 available through the Minnesota State Fair Scholarship program.