Mudville Annual auction has become big attraction for Penryn

By on March 22, 2012

By: JOHN CRAWFORD Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Penryn was a lively little town last Saturday as public auctions, better known as the annual mud sale, were the big attraction.

In a small village north of Lititz, the Penryn Fire Company held its annual mud sale last Saturday, a massive gathering for an otherwise tiny town.

What, exactly, is a mud sale?

"This is the seventh year we’ve had these mud sales, which is an auction of all kinds of items," said fire company member Tom Walsh. "We also have a lot of food for sale today. We have homemade chicken corn soup, we have hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecued chicken, ice cream and French fries."

It all started as a joint endeavor between the fire company, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and the local Amish parochial schools.

"Actually, the Amish approached the fire company about eight years ago and asked if we could go together on a partnership to have a sale like this," Walsh explained. "It’s been growing ever since. Last year, we had over 1,500 buyers. I expect to have more this year. With all the other folks that come along, we will have 2,500 to 3,000 people here today."

While the buyers and fund-raisers are important components, it’s also an important social event.

"It gets everybody out after the winter," Walsh added. "Three-quarters of our customers come from within five miles of this location, so a lot of people get out and see their neighbors here and socialize with them over a sandwich, drink or ice cream, or whatever."

Sitting behind the food tents confirmed that, as people who sat down to eat were greeted by cries of, "Howdy, neighbor!"

For many, the mud sale is an eat and greet.

"I walk around and then socialize with people, and look for stuff," said Corryn Wohlgemuth, who attended with her friend Dana Hostetter.

"I came here for the food and to check out the auctions," chimed Hostetter, a first-time mudster.

The lure of the auctions were the main draws for most, attracting buyers from beyond the region. Karen and Sam Graffman of Allentown found the auction listed online and decided to attend while visiting the county.

"At first, we thought it was a regular auction," Sam said. "We were surprised to see all this."

"We ended up getting two spool cabinets for sewing that are antiques," Karen added. "I have a collection of antique sewing machines. We thought they would be a good addition; nice conversation pieces."

For Sam, the hunt was for baseball history. His find on Saturday was an old advertisement featuring infamous baseball star Shoeless Joe Jackson.

"I’ve never seen any advertisement for Joe Jackson," he said. "This is probably a reproduction, but I’ve never seen any advertisement for with Joe Jackson. I’d have to see if it’s a reproduction. Even if it is, it doesn’t really matter; but if it is, it’d be great."

Eight-year-old Ansley Ryan of Manheim attended one of the flower auctions with her Aunt Barb Beaudoin of Massachusetts. Ryan bid on a set that she wanted to give her grandmother.

"I thought they matched her room," she said.

Ryan remained calm when she won the auction, but "Aunt Barb screamed."

Likewise, Dan Crumbacher of Greencastle landed a riding tractor for his son Dylan, 6.

"He had (a tractor) at home and it broke," said Crumbacher. "He loves tractors."

Tractors always seem to attract attention and he needed to outbid several potential buyers.

"It was a little bit of a fight," he said. "People wanted it. They are pretty popular."

"Instant smile" was Crumbacher’s description of Dylan’s reaction, and Dylan could be seen pedaling the tractor over the grounds for the rest of the morning.

This year’s mud sale also coincides with the Penryn Fire Company’s 100th anniversary. As buyers walked in to get their bid numbers, they were greeted by Richard Martin and his new book.

"Some of the fellas asked me to do a history of the fire company for our 100th anniversary, so I began working on that and it kind of spread out to the left and to the right," he said.

The book has already been a financial success, thanks to local businesses who bought ads.

"We went out looking for advertising for that purpose," he explained. "We were just overwhelmed with tremendous support."

That support flowed over to help finance other events related to the anniversary, Martin noted, such as a parade, picnic, canoeing and a historical tour of Penryn. More information can be found on the fire company’s website,

Around the corner from Martin’s table were more bid items related to the fire company, including a wood sculpture by local artist Doug Shaw.

"I made it specifically for the 100th anniversary," Shaw said. "I wanted to put something together that would show appreciation for all the people, not just the present ones. This one was specifically for the fire company."

He added that this year’s sculpture may be the last he produces.

"I’ve had (a carving) in each of the years (of the mud sale)," he said. "(I put in) between 50 and 60 (hours). It’s the last special one. I told them I will continue to contribute things, but I am not going to do big pieces."

Fire company members pooled money to bid on the sculpture and succeeded in securing it for their display case.

"I’m really happy that the fire company got it," Shaw said.

And while Shaw’s anniversary artwork was special to the volunteer firefighters it honors, the mud sale itself proved to be another special event for all who made the trek to Penryn that day, from five miles and beyond.

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