At least 200 people showed up Saturday morning to eat and bid on hams at the 75th annual Country Ham Breakfast, marking the end of the Boone County Fair.
Newcomers and seasoned curers alike were excited to see their hams auctioned off during the breakfast, held at the Peach Tree Catering and Banquet Center in south Columbia.
The bidding started around 9 a.m., and 44 hams were auctioned. The prize-winning ham came from Ashley Curtis, who said her brother, John R. Bullard, helped her cure it.
Bullard, 36, said their family from Ashland has been curing hams since 1950 in their ham house. His family originally cured them out of necessity due to the lack of refrigeration at the time, he said.
Bullard’s grandfathers, Neil Randall and John D. Bullard, also had hams in Saturday’s auction.
The younger Bullard has been curing hams most of his life, starting when he was 8 years old. His ham placed 43rd this year.
“It’s kind of a crap shoot every year,” he said.
Ham curing requires a lot of time. Bullard said the family started the curing process in November by hanging them up in their ham house. They then trimmed it up and cleaned it off in preparation for the judging, which took place Monday.
Bullard said the ham show brings out some friendly competition in his family.
“Unfortunately, I got beat out by my sister,” Bullard said.
Caleb Rowden, the Missouri Senate majority floor leader from Boone County, purchased the champion ham for $1,200.
The money Curtis got from her ham will go to her daughter, Estella Curtis. John R. Bullard said he hopes his niece saves the money for her education but that she is more likely to spend it on an animal for next year’s livestock show.
Bullard will also compete in the state fair in August with some of his other hams.
He said the Boone County Fair and the Missouri State Fair look for different things in hams.
The Boone County Fair looks for a more traditional cut and doesn’t allow contestants to smoke their hams, while the Missouri State Fair wants bigger hams and allows more trimming and smoking.
The show also included some younger competitors. Trent Henke, 11, was participating in the ham show for the third time. This year marked his first time making it to the auction.
While Henke hoped his ham would sell for $30, it ended up selling for $575. He said he would save the money and put it in his college fund.
Along with Rowden, some other mid-Missouri politicians were in attendance at the ham breakfast, including Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, and former state representative Chris Kelly.
The hams sold Saturday weighed 15 to 17 pounds on average. About 188 hams were submitted in the fair.
Fair Director Jeff Cook said the heat wave this week made attendance a little lower than previous years. Cook said he was sad that the fair was ending and wished it could continue.
“We’re ready for another week,” he said.
Supervising editor is Tom Coulter.