COLUMBIA — Granpa's Outhouse rolled its way steadily alongside hundreds of people waiting in a single-file line, eager to get their share of country-cured ham slices, fried apples and buttermilk biscuits with cream gravy at the 67th annual Boone County Country Ham Breakfast and Auction.
“Did you bring your horse today or your truck?” the puppet in the outhouse on wheels said teasingly to guests near the end of the line.
Strangers greeted one another warmly as they shuffled along the concrete floor with Styrofoam plates in hand after the Rev. Bill Ryan led the group of more than 400 people in prayer.
Former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson served as the master of ceremonies for the 18th year. After thanking volunteers and caterers, Wilson recognized Cindy Mustard, the long-time director of Columbia’s Voluntary Action Center set to retire in October.
Kim George, who had campaigned in the past for Wilson, was the guest speaker at the breakfast. The breast cancer survivor, who Wilson described as being strong as “blue twisted steel,” said she credits her personal success to her participation in 4-H Club.
After the meal, Ashley Popham's grand champion ham was auctioned first and sold for $900. The 14-year-old 4-H member won the July 20 annual ham judging contest.
“That’s not what I was expecting to get,” she said.
Popham plans to save the money for college.
She used brown sugar, black pepper and salt to cure the ham. The ham scored 93/100 points at the competition last week. Judges did not weigh the hams this year, but Popham's dad, Phillip, said it weighed about 19 or 20 pounds.
Popham and her family were surprised to learn her ham had won the competition.
“I thought they were joking at first," Popham said. "I didn’t think it was real."
Popham learned how to cure ham in 4-H Club. She said the best part about curing a ham is eating it afterwards.
Winning bidders, Bruce and Nancy Wilson, plan to donate the grand champion ham to Vicki Russell, publisher of the Columbia Daily Tribune.
The fair is important to Russell, and she cares about 4-H youth, said Bruce Wilson. “She’s earned the ham.”
Reserve champion, John David Bullard, cured a ham that sold for $550 at the auction. It scored 90/100 points at the judging last week.
The winning bidder, Deborah Daniels, plans to donate the ham to the 4-H Club Board.
“It will be for a great cause,” she said. “I think the auction is part of the tradition we all look forward to here.”
This year, 178 hams total were judged in the open and youth division competitions, and 48 were auctioned.
Last year, 215 hams were judged, and 39 were auctioned.
A total of 455 tickets were sold this year, according to George Harris, Boone County Fairgrounds manager. The breakfast was prepared by Regional Catering Services for the 25th year. Attendance was down from about 700 last year. Harris said numbers are usually higher during an election year.