By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
LeRoy Hedberg wants anyone planning on attending McNary High School choir’s madrigal dinner and auction to know two things before they sit down at their table: prepare to be entertained and there’s not going to be any deals.
“We’re not there for deals. If people want a deal they need to go to a bargain house, we’re there to raise some money,” Hedberg, a professional auctioneer, said.
The second annual fundraising dinner and auction for the McNary choir – A Knight of Song – is slated Saturday, April 2, at the Keizer Renaissance Inn.
The silent auction will begin at 5 p.m., dinner starts at 6 p.m. Tickets for the event are $35 each and include a three-course dinner. Tables are available for $280.
The Madrigal Dinner is a 21st Century re-creation of renaissance feasts held in the great baronial halls throughout England during the 12 days of Christmas minus the nod to the holiday season. The choir will perform.
Hedburg, a Salem resident, will run the oral auction in a return performance after a successful first event that raised more than $20,000.
He got his start in auctioneering as a child. An advertisement for the American Tobacco Company with footage of an auctioneer chanting his way down rows of tobacco pallets propelled him to mimic the style for his friends and family.
Years later, he would meet the son of the auctioneer featured in the commercial, but it wasn’t until he was offered the role of a spotter at a Salem Academy auction that he really began thinking about it as a potential career, he began traveling with the auctioneer as a spotter.
“He would give me rhymes to practice in the car and I slowly got better,” Hedberg said.
Later, a friend called and said he’d just wasted three weeks and $2,000. Hedburg asked on what and the friend said auction school. The problem was the friend had already booked four auctions, he asked Hedberg to take on the role of auctioneer if he would announce.
“It spread like wildfire from there. Soon I was running farm auctions, but I didn’t have the chant down the way some auctioneers did because I was watching all the other pieces of the auction from the cashier to the security,” Hedberg said. “It was highly unprofessional.”
He was still a good mimic, however. He began listening to tapes of the people he admired in the business and mimicking their style. Once he had them down, he began developing his own chant. Soon he was auctioning off telephone poles in his style as he drove down the street.
“It’s like being a professional singer, you have to practice, practice, practice,” he said.
Running off with his mouth is his particular talent, but getting to know the people and crowds he’s working with helps in more ways than one.
In a past auction, a large collection of Depression glass came up including a pickle jar, a rarity that could fetch as much as $250. He watched as bidders perused the auction and two dealers homed in of the jar quickly.
Before he began the auction he announced that he knew at least three people in the room knew the value of the jar.
“It ended up going for $230. It might have gone for $25 if I hadn’t gone and done the research,” Hedburg said.
It’s a far cry from the violin, play tickets, hot air balloon adventures, and golf, Renaissance Inn and Orlando get-aways he help put on the block during McNary’s auctions, but that’s beside the point.
“Estate auctions are fun, car auctions are great because I love cars, but it doesn’t give you anywhere near the sense of accomplishment of raising money for a cause you believe in,” Hedberg said. “These kids at McNary are doing something with their music that’s unbelievable and their teachers are giving them a straight-ahead push on their talents, not only in music, but in life. I believe in that that and I love seeing the crowd believe in it, too.”
Tickets to McNary’s Madrigal Dinner featuring the choir and Hedberg can be purchased at McNary High School’s front office, www.mcnarychoirs.com, or by calling 503-399-3233. The Keizer Renaissance Inn is located at 5188 Wittenberg Lane N.