Gene Deason

For some, the sighting of the groundhog on Feb. 2 is the first sign that spring canít be too far away. Maybe it wonít happen until next week, maybe it wonít be until next months and maybe itís still six or more weeks away. Regardless, the indications do begin to appear.

For others, one real sign of spring in Brownwood is the annual Cherry Pie Auction, the community benefit held for the past 34 years for the approximately 1,500 young people who participate in a group of summer recreational programs.

The weekend weather forecast for our area is hardly an indication, because as this is being written, the National Weather Service is calling for freezing rain and high temperatures not rising above 40 both today and Saturday. Maybe that sounds like springtime in Saskatchewan, but not for Central Texas.

For my money, that makes a hot pie or cobbler sound that much better right now.

And there will be plenty of those, along with more than 100 outstanding auction items up for grabs Saturday morning as this yearís Cherry Pie Auction gets under way at Adams Street Community Center.

For years, this event was held at the KBWD-KOXE studios, which then were across the street from the Bulletinís office. The stationís parking lot, the newspaperís parking lot and curbs all around three blocks were filled with vehicles coming and going. People would take pies in, and people would take pies out. And if they werenít careful, folks like Gordon Wood and Rodger Sweeney would grab them by the collar and put them on the air.

It seemed incredible to me that the Jamars and the Dillards would turn those stations over to this crew for even one morning, but maybe they didnít have much choice. I know the steamroller chugged through the Bulletin office as well in the days leading up to the auction, but everyone has always been willing to do whatever they could for the cause. Personally, I miss those gentlemen. I miss those visits. I miss that arm-twisting.

The appeal for participation is softer-sell these days, but because the project is so important to the community and its young people, the pitch is no less effective. The event is still broadcast over the radio, and it now originates at Adams Street Community Center where items can be displayed. Bidders can go to the center and participate in person, or listen on the radio and call in to one of four numbers ó 646-9300, 646-0146, 646-0161 or 646-9106.

City of Brownwood Parks and Recreation Director David Withers is quick to point out that delivery will be available to those who call in and win a prize, a point that may be quite important for some with a weather forecast as nasty as it is. You donít have to get out in the elements to make a contribution to this important cause.

Proceeds from the auction, which in recent years has topped $10,000, are divided equally among the Cen-Tex Soccer, Teenage Baseball, Freshman Baseball, Girls Softball and Soccer for Fun youth sports programs.

Other fund-raisers are held by these programs, but this is the big one. Withers said prizes for the auction are still coming in, and more are needed. But by the time the auction starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, more than 100 items will be up for bid ó along with the pies and other desserts that are always prime attractions.

ďThis auction helps keep the entry fees for these sports programs low, and gives the young people in the community an opportunity to be involved in something positive this summer,Ē Withers said.

The method and people may have changed over the years, but the need and the importance havenít.

Gene Deason is editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at gene.