Thursday July 24, 2014





Hotel lobby provides backdrop for steer auction

Murray Mitchell

Dave Sage and his son, Kolby, 8, share handling duties as they display Norman the steer at an auction held Wednesday inside the lobby of the Plaza Heritage hotel.

Amid the rhythmic chatter of auctioneer Wayne Jordan and occasional shouts from bidders, one spectator at the Plaza Hotel could hear the echoes of her youth.

The sale of a prize steer by Haughton Ranch in the hotel lobby Wednesday afternoon as a marketing stunt and nod to history went off without a hitch. Norman was calm and co-operative and left only smiles from spectators in his wake.

The winning bidder, Armstrong's Scott Innes, paid a premium price in the lobby festooned with cowboy and western art from the Horse Barn.

The idea came from Tina Lange, a city councillor and part owner of the Plaza Heritage Hotel who was sporting six guns at her side - with a UPC on the butt (the gun, not her jeans). She was inspired by a photograph in the Plaza lobby from the sale of a champion bull in 1956, attended by the mayor, ranchers and dignitaries.

And the little girl who snuck out of school 55 years ago to see it all.

"I went to school and found a way to leave school," Ellen Smailes said.

Then a student in Grade 7, give or take a year or two, Smailes said she couldn't stand to miss the action.

She ambled out of Kamloops secondary school and hoofed on down to the Plaza Hotel, then the symbol of wealth and luxury in the city.

"I snuck in behind all the bigger people," she said. "It was incredible. The place was packed full."

The lobby was also packed full Wednesday with ranchers, dignitaries and curious onlookers. Smailes said she'd heard about the sale on the radio, read about it in the newspaper and just had to come down.

Did she get in trouble for skipping out all those years ago?

"There was a little bit of 'I wonder where you went.' I just played innocent and didn't own up. Everyone knew where I went."

Smailes wasn't the only one pleased by Wednesday's auction.

Auctioneer Jordan started bidding for Norman at $3,000 with no takers. But after dropping to just above $1,000 bids climbed relentlessly skyward, reaching $7,500. Jordan said afterward it tied a record for a grand champion 4-H calf.

That's exactly where Norman is headed. Scott and Yvette Innes, who operate Innes Livestock, will give the black Angus steer to a granddaughter for a 4-H project.

"The beef industry needs people to help it," he said of his premium bid. "We're just proud to be here for this."

For Haughton, who helped wrestle and steer his animal out of the trailer and into the hotel, it was another example of entrepreneurship.

He credited Lange with the idea. The hotel features beef from Haughton Ranch on its menu and is holding events this month celebrating the partnership.

Haughton made the news last year with his raising of wine-fed beef, an idea that ran afoul of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

"You've got to be creative," he said.


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