The hamlet of Candiac, Saskatchewan, located 115 km southeast of Regina, has all but disappeared. However, one thing has kept it on the map — the Candiac Auction Mart.
Hundreds of auction-goers drive from miles around to attend monthly horse sales and weekly cattle sales at the lone business still in existence in the tiny hamlet of less than 50 residents.
“Somehow everybody knows about Candiac’s horse sales,” said Kevin Czerwonka, owner of the Candiac Auction Mart. “Last year our biggest sale was 500 head of horses, so it’s one of the biggest sales in the province.”
The Candiac Auction Mart was established in 1973 at a time when the community itself boasted three stores, a café and a post office. All of the businesses in Candiac have since closed up shop and most of the residents have moved on, but the auction mart continues to thrive.
The horse sales are the biggest drawing card, but weekly cattle sales have boosted business as well. Czerwonka said the horse sales, held on the first Saturday of every month, are still why the Candiac Auction Mart is so popular.
“Sometimes we wonder why people come from all over for these sales and we just don’t have an answer.”
Murray Andres of MacNutt drove two hours to attend a spring horse sale. He said the sales are so popular because of the small-town atmosphere that has been maintained for the last 37 years.
“It’s kind of a family auction,” said Andres. “It’s all farmers here and everybody is friendly, so it has that personal atmosphere.”
That family atmosphere is cultivated by the Czerwonkas, as eight to 10 family members, aged 14 to 76, can be found working at the auction mart at any given sale. Kevin and Janet Czerwonka’s teenage children take on various jobs, from horse herding to office work, while the couple’s mothers serve homemade pie and perogies in the canteen and Kevin’s dad and brothers manage the holding pens and ring.
“The family really is the backbone of this business,” said Janet. “It’s hard work, but for our kids, I hope it keeps them grounded and teaches them not to forget where they came from.”
At the spring horse sale, the Czerwonkas’ 17-year-old son was directing horses in the holding pens. Having just returned from a year of playing WHL hockey with the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, B. C., Drew said it’s always good to come back to the auction mart.
“I put up with the city for six or seven months, then it’s back to the farm and I’m still always a farm boy.”
The regular Candiac auctiongoers look forward to sales as much, or even more, than the Czerwonka family. For some, the Candiac horse sales are a monthly habit that is hard to break. Kevin said that when the July sale is sometimes cancelled due to the long weekend, he gets upset customers.
“Some of the regulars actually get mad if we don’t have a horse sale,” said Kevin. “That’s their outing and if they can’t come and sit here all day and visit and have coffee, they’re not very happy.”
Andres said the horse sales are an outing for him, but they often prove to be profitable as well. As a yearling entered the ring, Andres did a mental calculation, figuring that he could resell the filly for about $1,200. As the bids rose, Andres decided he’d pay as much as $900 for the horse.
“Sold to No. 36 for $390,” the auctioneer announced.
Andres had a big smile on his face, knowing that he could resell the horse for a tidy profit.
“I’ll have her sold by tomorrow night.”
For sale dates and information phone (306) 424-2967.