In less than a week, the 70th annual Hopkinsville Rotary Auction kicks off at the Memorial Building.

Unlike many past auctions, this year’s event will not be an in-person event because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve just got to be so careful this year,” said Scott Cowan, rotary president. “We just decided it would be really hard for people to social distance with a lot of people in the room. As much as we love the activity and love having everybody in there, I don’t know that we could do it and feel comfortable about it.”

Hours for the auction will be reduced this year to 7-9 p.m. Monday through Sept. 17 and 6-10 p.m. Sept. 18, and from 6 p.m. until all items are sold Sept. 19.

The auction theme is “A Tradition of Service Above Self.”

“What we joke about is I’m going to have the most untraditional auction ever,” Cowan laughed. “I’m just excited that we’re not canceling. We’re hoping that we can lead by example and show how to have a safe auction and have a productive auction.”

Another change will be the absence of a diner or sweet shop because of the state’s Healthy at Work guidelines for auctions. The Rotary Club will still be cooking and selling Boston butts each night outside the War Memorial Building, 1202 S. Virginia St. Cowan said the meat will be ready for pick up each day at 11 a.m. The cost will be $40 each. Cash and credit cards will be accepted.

“Starting at 11 a.m. until they are gone, we’re going to sell every Boston butt we prepared the night before,” he said.

The auction will stream nightly online at hopkinsvillerotary.com/auction/. While streaming, viewers will be able to follow the boards as they are updated in real time onsite at the Memorial Building. Cornerstone Information Systems will be setting up that access, Cowan said.

“That is a permanent thing from my auction going forward,” he said. “It will never be the same again. We feel like this is a way to provide more information for our folks at home streaming it. We’re super excited about that because that really enhances our auction.”

The auction will also be broadcast live on Spectrum cable channel 16-103 and over the radio at 98.7 FM.

This year’s auction goal was initially $300,000, but Cowan is uncertain if that amount will be reached.

“I don’t know if I’m going to hit my goal,” he said. “At this point, it’s do as well as we can. We want as many people to support us as we can. The focus kind of shifted from the goal to ‘let’s just have it.’ ”

Cowan said each year the rotary sells between 700-800 items in a normal year.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t know what that number is going to be. I’ve probably got 150 items right now,” he said. “I probably won’t have as many items to sell this year. I’ve still got stuff coming in. I still need a lot of items. I’ve got a ways to go.”

Although each year several high-dollar items are featured on the Big Board — including weekend outings and trips — but items will be different this year.

“If you’re selling experiences, if you think about it, a lot of your experiences have been canceled,” he said, noting the pandemic. “We tried to sell (Kentucky) Derby tickets (early). We had a high bidder. It got canceled. Those items that you used to have, you just don’t have anymore.”

Some of the items which will be up for auction next week will include tractor lawn mowers, hearing aids, barbecue grills, trampolines, basketball goals, beer-naming rights at Hopkinsville Brewing Co., queen mattresses and box springs, about 25 country hams, rare coins, bicycles and merchant gift certificates.

“We were founded Dec. 1, 1920. It’s our 100th year, so we have several rotarians working on a 100th history book that they are writing and compiling,” Cowan said. “That will be in a history kit that we will be selling. Inside that kit, there’s going to be two of the pint glasses with the 100th anniversary logo on it. That value is $50.”

Merchants are invited to sponsor a history kit, if they have not donated an item to the auction.

Rotarians, as well some community service organizations, will be at the War Memorial Building answering the phones to accept bids. Cowan said the phone stations are already separated by plexiglass, but volunteers will also wear clear face shields as an added layer of protection during the auction hours.

“I’ve had some groups that have volunteered in the past to man the phones and they’re willing to do that again this year,” he said.

To place a bid, call 270-885-7500 during the auction hours.

Despite the pandemic, Cowan said the club and the auction continue to serve others in the community. All proceeds from the auction benefit the Hopkinsville Rotary Scholars Endowment. The program was originally announced in 2008 and had its first official class of students in 2012.

This program gives high school students that graduate from Christian County High School, Hopkinsville High School, Heritage Christian Academy or University Heights Academy an opportunity to attend Hopkinsville Community College for free.

“The need is still there. In fact, more than ever,” Cowan said. “I think there’s a lot of kids this fall that are taking online classes at HCC and they didn’t go away to school … so the need is great.”

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