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All in the Family

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By Neila Schuhmann

Whether it was a nod of the head, a wave or even the subtle wink of an eye, Marsha Kessler was prepared to catch as many bids as possible during the Kentucky Future Farmers of America Auctioneering Contest.

The 15-year-old Taylor County High School sophomore became the third person in her family to win the contest over the weekend at the Kentucky State Fair.

And her father John Kessler, a local auctioneer who won the contest in 1979, said he's 99.9 percent sure she's the only girl to ever win the contest.

"When I was in FFA, girls were just starting to become involved."

During the mock auction judged by four professional auctioneers, each contestant had to sell three items. They were judged on their chant, ability to catch bids, appearance and how well they handle themselves on stage.

"A lot of them bid all at one time and you just have to choose [which one to acknowledge]," Marsha said.

A finalist in the preliminary, Marsha and another contestant were called back for two additional rounds before she finally won.

"I was getting very nervous."

Her father said Marsha worked hard to prepare herself in the weeks leading up to the contest. She had chosen practice items to auction, which were listed on the contest's Web site.

"I pretended to sell items to my dad," she said. "He helped me with my opening statement and name."

Marsha's older brother, John Wayne Kessler, won the contest in 2004. Both she and her brother won the contest as sophomores on their first try, which her father says is hard to do. When John won the contest himself in 1979, he was a junior and had placed second as a sophomore.

"Most take two to three tries," John said.

And though Marsha said she doesn't plan on going into the family business - her brother is a fourth generation auctioneer - she said it was "a given" that she'd compete in the contest.

Marsha said she plans to get her real estate license in order to help out with the business, but she hopes to go into the medical field.

"I think that her brother just winning it a few years ago added a lot of pressure," her father said. "She's really worked hard."

In addition to her involvement in FFA, Marsha is also a member of the girls' varsity basketball team, Beta Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

With a smile, her father says, "She's always been real good at handling her nerves, whether it be in basketball or on stage."

- Social Writer Neila Schuhmann can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 224 or by e-mail at cknj@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.