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Auctioneer will talk his way into your wallet at festival East Columbia resident uses his gift of gab at community event


When neighbors arrive for the 22nd annual Lake Elkhorn Festival Saturday, they just might hear a familiar voice -- a fast-talking voice on a mission to raise money for his East Columbia community.

For the past five years, Ed Bouligny, an accountant from Columbia's Village of Owen Brown, has served as an amateur auctioneer at the festival auction, which netted $652 last year.

"It's all in fun," he said, the words rolling off his lips. "I've been to many auctions and I kind of marvel at . . . the auctioneers' ability to keep rattling. I'm a talker."

His verbal pyrotechnics will be just one of the attractions at this year's festival, which takes place from 11 a.m. till 6 p.m. at Lake Elkhorn, the 37-acre lake at Broken Land and Snowden River parkways in the Owen Brown village.

No admission is charged for the season's last major event at the lake.

The festival will include bands, arts and crafts, games of chance, food, a children's fishing contest, a pet show, pony rides and a martial arts demonstration.

And Mr. Bouligny will be at the microphone, overseeing the auction. Items being auctioned will start at 25 cents and range from board games and toys to gift certificates and other items donated by local businesses.

Usually, the money that the auction generates will help pay for next year's festival or another village event.

It's up to Mr. Bouligny to keep the bids moving -- a task that can be tough when people already know what an item is worth, he said.

"It's kind of hard to auction off a savings bond because everybody knows the value," said he said. Even so, he said, savings bonds sometimes sell at more than face value because "people get into the spirit."

It was Ruth Bohse, Owen Brown village manager, who asked Mr. Bouligny to become the festival's auctioneer because of his long history with the festival and Owen Brown community.

"He's terrific," she said. "He can talk fast for one thing."

"I guess they know I have a big mouth," he joked. "As I said, I'm a fast talker."

To improve his auctioneering skills, Mr. Bouligny has been listening to a tape on tips for auctioneers.

The art of auctioneering "is a sales pitch," he said. "The auctioneer is a fast talker who has to get the crowd into the game and help organizations make money."

He said his job as an accountant for Montgomery County government has given him ample opportunity to observe auctioneers at tax and mortgage auctions. "I admire their professionalism," he said.

During one year in the mid-1980s, Mr. Bouligny coordinated the entire festival, which was begun after Lake Elkhorn was dedicated in June 1974. Originally, the festival was called "The Annual Village Picnic" and was held at community centers in Owen Brown.

Organizers later moved the event back to the lake, seeing it as a more scenic site, Ms. Bohse said.

Other changes have been made, she said. Neighbors once brought homemade dishes to the festival. These days, commercial vendors sell the food.

But the festival's fans say it still offers a good opportunity for neighbors to see each other -- weather permitting.

"It's symbolic of yesteryear, small town things," Mr. Bouligny

said. "It's a hometown affair. "

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