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Ernie Hostetler, Middlebury, is pictured with a wooden wheeled two-man fire truck that was in the antique sale barn at the Mennonite Relief Sale. New and used items, children's items and quilts were set for sale today at the 43rd annual event at the county fairgrounds.

Thousands of people from across the country started their weekend at the 43rd annual Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale Friday evening, viewing quilts, enjoying food and music and looking over items for sale at the Elkhart County 4-H fairgrounds.

The antique auction began Friday evening in a building that was jammed with “garage” and antique items.

Goshen auctioneer Leonard Miller, who has helped with the antique auction for more than 30 years, said the collection of antique and other items in the building was the biggest ever.

“We had a large amount in 1976 and 1977, but this is more,” he said, before he began selling some items Friday at 7 p.m. “Some people said it is too crowded, but that’s what we want.”

There were new and used items, as well as handmade wooden items set for sale. Miller said the auction will start at 9 a.m. Saturday, and there will be two rings going at the same time with the anticipation the auction could be complete by 2 p.m.

“I love this,” Miller said of the relief sale project. “The money gets used in the U.S. There is a lot of variable ways the money can help needy people.”

Herb Maust, Goshen, was looking over items for sale Friday, but said he will be busy today driving one of the two horse-drawn trams at the fairgrounds.

“I’ve done it for 10 years or so,” Maust said.

He pointed out the many campers on the grounds this weekend, with many people traveling to Goshen in recreational vehicles to attend or work at the relief sale.

“Look at all the campers,” Maust said. “The infield is full.”

One such camper was Randall Fix, who traveled to Goshen with his wife, Peggy, this week from a camper rally in Pennsylvania.

“We came here to attend the Mandalay rally Oct. 4,” Fix said, but arrived a week early to attend his first relief sale. The Fix family is from Texas.

“We came here early and squatted,” he said from the seat of his golf cart in the middle of the relief sale. “I’m glad we came a week early.”

Ken Horst was part of the Friday crew from College Mennonite Church making homemade ice cream at the relief sale.

“If we had done this Thursday night we would have sold more ice cream,” Horst said, referring to the record high temperatures that day.

Baked goods and international food was set for sale all day today, too.

Admission and parking are free.

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