The Richard brothers, Paul, 7, and Chance, 5, just couldn’t stop smiling as two men from the auction company loaded a pint-sized four-wheeler into the back of their father’s pickup truck Saturday morning.
The boys were the proud owners of the very first item sold at the Baton Rouge Police Department’s annual bike auction, a sale that also included a few go-karts, four-wheelers and lawnmowers.
Several hundred area residents crowded into the hot gym, cooled only by giant Fire Department fans, and patiently watched for their favorite bike to be rolled up onto the stage.
“They needed something else to play with and I wanted to do something for the city,” Derrick Richard said as the four-wheeler was loaded. “And I got a good deal on it.”
The machine, one of the 175 items that were stolen or found and or otherwise recovered, was $240, Richard said.
As the boys climbed into the truck, young Paul turned to the men who loaded it, Dylan Alise and Anderson Broadus, and gave them a grinning thumbs up.
Meanwhile, back inside the crowded gym, auctioneer Jack Kunstler of Kunstler Newton Services LLC, was overseeing the bidding, recording and purchasing of the items. By mid-morning 233 people had registered, he said, and more were still coming in the door.
“This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had,” Kunstler said. “We donate our services, so the Police Department gets all the proceeds from this.”
Kunstler estimated that in the past years they’ve raised between $5,000 and $6,000, but he expected Saturday’s auction revenue to approach $15,000. Depending on the condition of the bikes, they were selling from $30 for simple kid’s bikes to $300 for multi-geared mountain bikes.
“There is a lot of good stuff here this year,” said police Sgt. Terrance Watkins, who was overseeing workers moving bikes on and off the stage. “This definitely is the biggest turnout we’ve ever had in at least 15 years.”
Jacob Zeno was one of nearly 100 people standing along the rail of the upstairs observation deck, where it was really hot. He purchased a small, pink girl’s bike for his 7-year-old daughter, Jaden, for $30. “She likes pink — but I have three girls, so I have to get a couple more,” he said with a big smile.
Down on the floor, Kim Denicola was fanning herself with her bid card when the auctioneer called her number. “I wasn’t really bidding on it,” she said of the go-kart on the auction block, “so I just kept bidding on it and I won it.”
The go-kart, purchased for $170, was for her children, Nicholas, 15, and twins Matthew and Megan, age 11. Matthew is physically challenged, gets around with a walker, and cannot ride a bicycle, his mother said.
“But he can ride this — after I turn down the throttle a bit,” added Matthew’s father, David, as he and Nicholas loaded the go-kart into their pickup truck.
“This will be awesome,” Nicholas said as he and his dad turned the kart sideways in the pickup bed.
“Now we’re going to go buy some helmets,” the boys’ mother, Kim Denicola, said while getting into the truck.
Like the Richard boys, Matthew didn’t have anything to say about his new wheels — except for a big grin.