The avenue to the Aksarben Purple Ribbon Scholarship Auction starts before they arrive in Grand Island each September. Committing to a market beef, market sheep, market goat, market hog and/or pen of broilers means months of dedication to the project and maybe years of learning from parents, family members, peers and/or siblings.
The reward, they are added to an elite class of 36 exhibitors where their project becomes a scholarship towards higher education. The accolade of being selected means their hard work paid off. Each exhibitor will spend hours working with their market animal, doing barn chores all season long, in the snow, rain, mud, wind, and heat. It also means they have a good understanding of feed selections, an array of showmanship skills and are knowledgeable about the animal's health and wellness.
The youth showing market animals all enter the Aksarben Stock Show with the dream of making the scholarship auction, on Saturday night. They bring their livestock projects to show and compete against their peers from 14 states. Hundreds of youth compete annually for one of 36 auctions slots. They are dependent on the generosity of individuals, businesses, foundation grants and philanthropic dollars donated towards the auction.
The night of the auction the exhibitors arrive early with their livestock eager to meet the "Buying Groups". Buying Groups are a combination of multiple donors' funds. These groups are formed under corporate names, industry jargon and some are just creative clubs in name only. For example Three Blind Mice; The T-Bone Buying Club, The Grand Island Hospitality Trio, The Cuming County Cattlemen and the Western Nebraska/Colorado Buying Group.
To start a Buying Group you just need cash to fund an auction lot. For example three individuals could each contribute $1,000 and form the "Three Friends Buying Group" with the purchase power of $3,000. Another example is 25 co-workers could each contribute $100 and form the "Hundred Dollar Club Buying Group" with the purchase power of $2,500. Another example is a business could contribute $5,000 and ask two clients to join for $1,000 each. This new club could be named "Business Plus Two Buying Group" and have $7,000 in purchase power.