End of an era

SLAYTON -- Efforts to save a 74-year-old icon in the city of Slayton appear to have been for naught after Murray County commissioners recently rescinded a motion to accept the Slayton Sales Pavilion's move to the local fairgrounds.

JULIE BUNTJER/DAILY GLOBE A couple of guys talk business over an International tractor to be sold at auction Tuesday afternoon on the Slayton Sales Pavilion lot. Tuesday's machinery sale was the last on the site.

SLAYTON -- Efforts to save a 74-year-old icon in the city of Slayton appear to have been for naught after Murray County commissioners recently rescinded a motion to accept the Slayton Sales Pavilion's move to the local fairgrounds.

In a span of about three weeks, supporters of the sale barn raised $99,000 to not only move the building across town, but to add cedar shingles and install new windows and siding. That money has since been returned to the 150 donors after the Murray County Fair Board said it didn't want -- and didn't have space for -- the building.

Chuck Platt Jr., who owns the sale barn with his parents, Charles and Mary, said the pavilion will now likely be torn down. The Platts have sold the land it sits on, located just west of the U.S. 59 and Minnesota 30 junction, and the new owners will take possession sometime between Oct. 1-15. While Platt said he couldn't say who purchased the land, it is an existing business that plans to expand.

Saturday marks the 74th anniversary of the first sale conducted in the Slayton Sales Pavilion. For years, it lured area farmers each week to take a seat on the wooden planks and listen to the call of the auctioneer as everything from cattle and hogs to sheep and horses were ushered into the ring.

In recent weeks, Platt has heard many tales from people with fond memories about going to the sale barn.


"This is where every farmer in this county would gather to sell all their livestock. It was a great meeting place in Slayton," said Platt, who with his parents has owned the barn for the past eight or nine years. "There is a lot of history. There are so many people that I know that will walk into this building, point and say, 'I used to sit there with my father; I used to sit there behind that opening there with my father; that's where I bought my first five calves.' It was really, really neat."

Advertising signs are still nailed to the wall behind the auctioneer's counter, encouraging farmers to do business with sale barn supporters ranging from banks to grain elevators. Some of the businesses have since closed; others have been passed on to the next generation of family members. Platt said he'd intended the signs to stay in place if the building was going to be saved.

Now, he plans to take them down and return them to the businesses as a memento of the pavilion.

It isn't just the interior of the pavilion that evokes memories among the locals. A small lunch stand located on the north side, fondly referred to as the Feed Bunk, was where farmers and their kids could get a burger and a bottle of pop. The original wooden lunch counter still stands there today, along with a an assortment of mismatched stools.

Platt knows the building isn't in the best shape, but he also knows it can be saved. It's going to take someone else stepping forward with an alternative site, however, to make that happen.

Committee of action

Within days after word was out that the sale barn property had been sold and the building would be torn down, a committee of five men -- Don and Duane Carlson, Jim Kluis, Jeff Bose and Kevin Wynia -- formed to raise awareness and money to get the building moved. Their first task, however, was to get approval from the Murray County Board of Commissioners to relocate the pavilion. (The attached barn where the animals were housed will be torn down. It is in an extremely dilapidated state -- a large portion of roof had collapsed in one area due to heavy snow a few winters ago.)

"There were five commissioners, three voted for and two against," Platt said. "They agreed to accept (the pavilion) if we raised $40,000."


A contingency was set by the committee that if the money was raised, the pavilion had to be placed on the fairgrounds property for restoration. Platt said the group had identified the area where a hoop barn currently stands as the location for the pavilion. The hoop barn, used in recent years to house rabbits and poultry, was used during this past year, essentially, as a place for people to sit and rest.

However, when the Murray County Fair Board learned of the commissioners' decision, its members rallied together against the plan. According to Platt, the fair board said it should have had a say before the commissioners agreed to accept the building. Stan Larson, Murray County Fair Board president, did not respond to phone calls from the Daily Globe requesting comment.

Split decision

When Murray County commissioners first voted to accept the sales pavilion's move to the fairgrounds, the board was split, 2-2. Commissioners Kevin Vickerman and Bill Sauer were in favor of the move, while John Giese and Gerald Magnus were opposed. Robert Moline broke the tie in favor of the move.

"They asked if they could raise the money, if they could move (the pavilion) out to the fairgrounds," Vickerman said. "The thought was, well then, let them try.

"I suggested that it was a great idea," he added. "We have three old structures there that are all about the same vintage as the sale barn -- all wood structures. It gives the old fairground look. The building matches in with the architectural structure."

Vickerman had heard comments from the fairground advisory committee -- a group that consists of those who use the grounds throughout the year, from the fair board to the Women of Today, the race board and Relay for Life -- that it didn't know how it could utilize the pavilion for their events.

"It seats about 240 to 300 people," Vickerman said. "We're always coming up with new ideas on what to do with the fair. It could provide indoor seating for Mylan Ray; they were talking about holding the 4-H Ribbon Auction in the pavilion; you could do rabbit judging there. We could have found things to put in there."


The commissioners' decision to accept the building wasn't based solely on community supporters, either. Vickerman said the county's insurance company evaluated the structure and said it was fine. The pavilion isn't ADA-compliant, but it could be converted. An evaluation had also been received from the Barn Doctors, a local barn restoration business.

"The Barn Doctors looked at it for its integrity -- structurally they said it was in great shape, cosmetically it needs a lot of work," Vickerman shared. "They thought, in their mind, it was a building that should be saved."

With so many donors chipping in to help get the barn moved, Vickerman said the idea had merit.

"It really has no bigger footprint than the hoop barn that was going to be replaced," he said.

After facing opposition from the fair board and a request to rescind the motion, the board cast a split vote once again, with the same two commissioners in favor, and the same two opposed. This time, Moline cast his vote in opposition to the sale barn move, citing the fair board's request not to accept the building.

Giese said there was no room on the fairgrounds for the pavilion, and no money for the obvious upkeep the building would require in the future.

"We are trying to keep our taxes down, and we really have no use for (the pavilion)," he said. "To leave the bleachers in it, all we would use it for would be the ribbon sale, and that's only an hour and a half or two hours a year."

Giese said the wooden plank seating area has seats that are 16 inches high and 24 inches deep, and there are lead paint and asbestos issues with the building.


"We have a five-year plan for the fairgrounds and that was not included," he explained. "(The idea) came up very unexpectedly. We want to remodel our cattle barn and (the money) is all earmarked for that."

Giese found little public support for accepting the pavilion, and said the hour-and-a-half discussion that took place at an Aug, 28 county board meeting had lots of input.

"We had a good discussion and there was no hard feelings that I could tell," Giese said.

Having visited the Slayton Sales Pavilion many times during his years as a loan officer in Slayton, Giese understands the nostalgia surrounding the building.

"If we would have had the room we probably would have taken it," he said. "I don't know -- it doesn't really have a use for us. I can surely understand the guys' opinions asking us to try to keep it.

"I hope nobody feels that I had my sights set on getting rid of it. I like history, and I like old buildings," Giese said.

The next step

Platt said there are rumors circulating in the community now about another individual who may be interested in finding a home for the pavilion, though no one has stepped forward as of yet. He also recently visited Pioneer Village in Worthington to get ideas for how the pavilion could be utilized in Slayton.


In hindsight, he said if he had known the amount of interest in saving the barn, he would have done more research before the movement began to save the building. Platt listed the 4-H Ribbon Auction, talent contests and the Autumn Boutique as options to utilize the space.

"I am disappointed in how we tear down buildings," added Vickerman, saying he has a soft spot for old buildings. He likened the auction barn to the Holt House in Slayton, saying the barn deserves to be saved.

"I'm just disappointed at the county because we normally look at things as their potential, not what they are," Vickerman said. "All I've heard about that barn is that it's dilapidated, it's an eyesore. If we took it back to what it was like when it was built, it was a gorgeous building. We need to look at what things can be, not what they are."

Commissioners, in rescinding the motion to accept the barn, did suggest alternative locales for it, including as a visitor's center near the Country Host.

"It would take quite a bit of money to get it in shape," Giese said. "When you leave a building go that long, it's bound to deteriorate."

The Platts had used the sales pavilion about once a year since purchasing it to host a horse sale. After horse sales started to dwindle a few years later, however, they gave up on the auctions.

Since 2007, the grounds have been rented to Randy Buntjer Auction Service. Buntjer and fellow auctioneer Duane Mulder conducted weekly hay sales as well as machinery auctions seven times per year. The last machinery auction was conducted by them on Tuesday. Buntjer said he's still looking for an alternate location in Slayton to host auctions.

In the 74 years the auction barn operated in Slayton a handful of auctioneers worked there. They included Cecil Speer, John Bothof, Royal Lear, Luverne Johnson and Dave Bosacker.


Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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