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St. Anthonys Harvest Festival auction goes high tech
Amanda Dutra holds up a Portuguese coffee cake for the bidders to see at the recent St. Anthony Harvest Festival. The coffee cake, donated by FESM Hall, fetched nearly $400 at the live auction. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The anvil has been retired.

Live animals – mostly dairy cows – no longer made their appearance next to the beer garden where the corral used to be. Their attendance has been elevated to electronic presence via giant flat-screen television monitors.

Gone were the bales of hay, too. Without the cows, there was no reason to bring straw to the festival grounds.

Some of those traditional and dramatic elements that never failed to raise the level of excitement at the annual harvest festival at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca may have disappeared in recent years, but the outdoor live auction with its wealth of entertainment that sometimes became the next day’s news was still a major attraction at the recently concluded two-day family-oriented extravaganza. The regular auction fans were still in attendance – Nancy Teicheira, Patti Fichtner who was also one of the volunteers, Dan and Judy DeRuyter, and members of the Dutra and Machado families, among many others – still having fun, and still having a good time in their friendly bidding wars over the most mundane and simplest items such as a homemade Portuguese sweet bread or coffee cake.

That was clearly evident as young volunteer Amelia Dutra held up a homemade round Portuguese coffee cake – one of several donated by the FESM Hall – for all potential bidders to see, walking back and forth in front of the bleachers as Jim Thissen and the auctioneer revved up the bidding process. Excitement rose as the bids went past the $200 mark, then past $300 until the auctioneer shouted “Sold!” The sweet bread fetched nearly $400.

Thissen, who has been volunteering at the live auction “since I was 21” as a parishioner and as a member of the church’s Young Men’s Institute, said there were nearly half a dozen of the tasty Portuguese sweet breads that were similarly auctioned off Sunday afternoon.

In years past, the entertainment value of the harvest festival’s auction was very much a part of the parish fund-raising celebration. The entertainment element, such as the auctioning of the anvil for fun every year, was used to generate donations for the church and the parish school which were the recipients of the proceeds from the festival. With the live animals no longer present at the auction grounds, runaway cows are now a thing of the past. The auction made front page news when one of the donated animals escaped from the makeshift corral on the festival grounds and ran down the streets of Manteca resulting in a stampede of volunteers trying to capture the wayward cow.