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‘Everything for Everybody’: Fairlee Equipment Auction Draws Big Crowd

  • Henry Connolly of Brookfield, center, talks with Ken Blaisdell of East Randolph, right, as auction-goers look over the offerings at the CW Gray & Son’s annual spring auction in Fairlee yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Henry Connolly of Brookfield, center, talks with Ken Blaisdell of East Randolph, right, as auction-goers look over the offerings at the CW Gray & Son’s annual spring auction in Fairlee yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Priscilla Burnette of Fryeburg, Maine, and her boyfriend, Robert Edmunds, who “follow the auction circuit,” look over their new acquisition during the CW Gray & Son’s spring auction in Fairlee yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Priscilla Burnette of Fryeburg, Maine, and her boyfriend, Robert Edmunds, who “follow the auction circuit,” look over their new acquisition during the CW Gray & Son’s spring auction in Fairlee yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jason Gray starts up a Cub Cadet riding lawn mower to demonstrate its condition as his grandfather Herb Gray, left foreground, starts the bidding during yesterday’s  auction. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Jason Gray starts up a Cub Cadet riding lawn mower to demonstrate its condition as his grandfather Herb Gray, left foreground, starts the bidding during yesterday’s auction. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Henry Connolly of Brookfield, center, talks with Ken Blaisdell of East Randolph, right, as auction-goers look over the offerings at the CW Gray & Son’s annual spring auction in Fairlee yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Priscilla Burnette of Fryeburg, Maine, and her boyfriend, Robert Edmunds, who “follow the auction circuit,” look over their new acquisition during the CW Gray & Son’s spring auction in Fairlee yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Jason Gray starts up a Cub Cadet riding lawn mower to demonstrate its condition as his grandfather Herb Gray, left foreground, starts the bidding during yesterday’s  auction. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Fairlee — A red pickup truck inched around Gray’s Field yesterday, moving short distances and stopping, again and again, in front of a tool or piece of construction equipment.

Then, from inside a cabin mounted atop the truck, came the familiar patter of an auctioneer, his voice spreading around the field.

“Tenhundredgottagotenandahalf,” he said into a microphone, running the words together and filling spaces between sentences with more words. The amplified voice tracked across the field.

It was all part of CW Gray & Son’s spring equipment auction, which specializes in farm and building machines. The truck was closely followed throughout the morning by a variably sized pack of people from around the Upper Valley and beyond, most carrying a card bearing their bidder number.

One was Mark Atwood, of Bolton, Vt., which sits between Montpelier and Burlington. He had attended the auction without a clear sense of what he wanted or needed, if anything.

At about 9:30 a.m., Atwood lingered behind the crowd and looked at the old but working generator he had just purchased for $375. He said he’d use it as a backup for the solar power he uses on his house, which is off the grid.

“It’s a little bit of everything for everybody,” he said.

This was the first of the East Thetford-based company’s auctions of the year (the next is set for June 8), and the generator was just one of hundreds of items arranged in rows in the field, a configuration conducive to the auctioneers’ ever-moving pickup truck. Next to the generator sat a snowmobile. Behind it was a series of file cabinets, and next to those a selection of wheelbarrows.

At the end of the field closest to Route 5, some of the larger equipment stood sentry. A flatbed and a pickup truck were up for auction. So too was an aerial lift, which hung high above the field. Nearby, in the driver’s seat of a small excavator, Arlan Pidgeon, who works in excavating and trucking, dug into a plate of carnival-style french fries.

Pidgeon, of Leicester, Vt., said he often drives the 80 miles to the Fairlee auction from his home. He hadn’t yet joined the mass of bidders an hour into the auction, but said he saw tires and a drill press in the lineup that had him interested.

“I’ve bought stuff here before,” Pidgeon said, adding that the Fairlee auctions, which generally run once a month through the summer, are must-attend events.

Matt Morse, of Berlin, Vt., agreed, saying the only similar auction he’s aware of is in Swanton, Vt., about 10 minutes from the Canada border.

Morse, who works in building and woodworking, said he has been coming to the Fairlee auction for five years now.

Yesterday, he stood on the outskirts of the changing group of bidders surrounding the auctioneers’ pickup.

“I’m actually looking for a lawn tractor, myself,” he said, as people bid on building materials nearby.

Morse, who attended the auction yesterday with his uncle, said the atmosphere of the day is fraternal — as much a chance to reconnect with acquaintances after a long winter as it is an opportunity to buy new equipment.

“I think there’s a lot of folks here that don’t bid on anything,” he said.

At the heavy-equipment end of the auction ground, Ron Taylor and Paul Thurston said they hadn’t yet made any bids, though they both have had luck in the past.

Taylor, who manages Connecticut Valley Trucking, in Orford, smiled when he said he’d attended “every one for quite a few years.”

“You have to know what you’re buying,” said Thurston, of North Haverhill, “and what you can get from a dealer.”

Hand tools, for instance, always seem to sell for what he considers too much, he said. Still, though, Thurston, who is retired, said the auction is “kind of like going to the fair.”

If that’s the case, it’s a fair with the potential for big prizes.

“If you pay attention, you can get something for half the cost of new,” Morse said.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.