Beneath gorgeous weather on the grounds of the historic Mather House Museum, The Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson hosted its 34th annual outdoor country auction on Saturday, Oct. 15.
The country auction is a yearly local tradition that has endured for over three decades due to its unique format. Attendees are seated beneath a tent, holding their bid cards before a professional auctioneer.
Beth Pranzo is an officer of HSGPJ. She discussed the country auction’s role as bringing community members together while raising funds for the historical society.
“It’s a community event that we really, really like to promote,” she said. “It is a big fundraiser for us as one of the two major fundraisers of the year at the historical society.”
Pranzo outlined the many programs and activities the proceeds will go toward throughout the year. “They go to educational programs. They go to exhibits. They go to our functions here — the many bills for all the buildings we support.”
Barbara Russell, the Brookhaven Town historian and member of HSGPJ, has participated in the country auction since its inception. She described the unique structure of the auction, its elegant venue, and how the program ties into the historical society’s mission.
“We are very lucky that we can hold it here on the Mather museum grounds,” she said. “We try to sell it as an old-fashioned country auction outside and under the tents.”
While the auction has added some innovations and tweaks over the years, it resembles the original country auction held over three decades earlier.
“It’s basically the same format that we started with,” Russell said. “We just have it a little more computerized now. We have a bigger mailing list, more consignors, that kind of thing. But the items that sell change over the years.”
According to Russell, an item sold at auction can follow one of two tracks. The historical society collects 100% of the proceeds generated by a donated item’s sale at auction. For consigned items, the consignor receives a percentage of the profits and the historical society collects the difference.
Russell says she returns yearly because she believes in the historical society’s stated purpose. “It’s a great organization,” the town historian said. “We started [the society] in the 1960s, and we maintain a museum right here in the village. We do take the artifacts that show Port Jefferson’s history. And the backbone of these organizations is the volunteers.”
Pranzo has participated in the country auction since 1995. For her, the event has evolved for the better, bringing a broader range of bidders into Port Jefferson.
“It’s just a very fun event because the whole community comes together,” she said. “People come back year after year from other places. They come from Connecticut on the ferry. They come from Nassau County.” She added, “It’s a country auction, so everything sells no matter the price. If there aren’t two bidders for something, then you get a really good deal.”
— Photos by Raymond Janis