The annual CSIA auction, considered one of the great events associated with the National Chimney Sweep Guild convention, brings all of our sweeps, families and supporters together in one room to turn donated goods — including one-of-a-kind handmade items — into a crucial and critical revenue stream for CSIA operations.
This year’s auction — themed “Night at the Zoo” — is March 21 in Columbus, Ohio.
We actually have two auctions – one silent, one live.
The silent auction is a special benefit auction where proceeds raised go to pay for expenses related to Sweeps Week, a supercharged 5-day extravaganza held the second week of June. Sweeps gather at the Tech Center in Plainfield, Indiana to help out with any projects that need doing.
As for the live auction, auction coordinator Judd Berg of Judd Berg & Sons Chimney Sweeps in North Eastham, Mass., answered a few questions about its function and purpose.
Q: Why is the auction so important to CSIA?
A: CSIA has very limited revenue avenues but dreams of good things to do. CSIA Benefit Auction proceeds help turn these dreams into reality.
Q: What’s our usual attendance rate?
A: We usually set up seating for approximately 250, but quite a few bidders stand around also. Some sweeps bring their families for a night of fun. Often times our vendors attend and actively bid. Not every auction item is work related.
Q: What type of items are available to bid on?
A: As you might guess, industry-related items account for the majority of items up for bid, goods that are purchased, then used by sweeps in the field. Things like liners, caps, all-fuel systems, brushes, water-repellent items, tools, even sweep vacuums, wood stoves and fireplace systems. Chimney sweep memorabilia ranging from prints to figurines to t-shirts. Gorgeously handmade chimney sweep dolls. Chimney sweep beer!!! You can find things to bring home for your significant other, or your kids, that aren’t even industry related. Our international sweep guests generously provide sweep clothing, artwork, and beverages associated with their home countries and guilds.
But things occasionally go outside the box. We’ve had one of our sweeps offer to cut off her floor-length hair if a certain amount of money was bid-pledged. When that amount was reached matching bids were taken for her to not be shorn. In the end, not a lock of hair was disturbed and CSIA raised $15,000. On another occasion five intrepid sweeps volunteered to sit for 30 minutes by the outside pool in their bathing suits immediately after the auction if $6,000 were pledge-bid.
This might not seem like such a big deal until you remember that it was the middle of winter and there was about four feet of snow surrounding the pool. Thus began the legend of the “Hershey Five.”
And recently we have some very industrious donors who have stitched up wonderful quilts to be bid on. In fact I understand that one such quilt made from numerous chimney sweep themed t-shirts and sweatshirts has been made especially for the Columbus auction. This is wonderful.
Q: What have past proceeds done to benefit CSIA?
A: Much of what has been raised in the time I’ve been associated with the CSIA benefit auction went to pay off the tech center’s mortgage, and we accomplished that mission. In recent years our proceeds have helped CSIA enforce the integrity of our trademark. Funds also to help establish new educational programs.
Q: What will proceeds of this year’s auction go towards?
A: This year’s proceeds will be used to help fund the writing of a “white paper” regarding factory-built fireplace and chimney systems.
MORE: What’s on tap at the NCSG Convention. View the schedule.
Q: Other thoughts on the auction?
A: I want to acknowledge the generosity of not only every vendor and sweep for their items, but also the many volunteers who give of their time to act as “roadies” and “runners” throughout the day. This event would be impossible without them. And to our auctioneer extraordinaire and former sweep Randy Atkinson, who ensures both a fun and a profitable night of bidding. Lastly I’d like to thank Debbie Cornelius for everything she does from contacting vendors, coordinating the volunteers and to making sure everything is in place for a great night.
BONUS: We asked Judd if he expected anything memorable from this year’s auction. Here’s what he told us, via our Soundcloud channel.