Arts & Culture

Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.

Great TV Auction Remembered in PMC Exhibit

Written by Cary Burkett, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | Apr 22, 2015 3:09 PM


In 1969, WITF launched an annual fundraiser which would become a signature event for the Public Television station, drawing widespread interest from the region and enduring in some fashion for 35 years. It began as the Channel 33 Auction, and would later be known as The Great TV Auction.

Hundreds of regional businesses, artists and craftspeople participated, donating items to be auctioned off to the TV audience. The money raised went to support the station.  The WITF TV studios were transformed into an auction house, crammed with merchandise of all sorts, from handmade pillows, to gift certificates for meals at local restaurants, to records, books, jewelry and paintings. . Big ticket items included tractors, mink coats and cars.  

The energy was high, with auctioneers such as WITF personality Mike Greenwald drumming up the bidding. Off screen, the energy was if anything even more frantic. Items were delivered constantly to the station and carted into position for the TV cameras in an environment of controlled chaos. The effort required hundreds of volunteers, for both on and off-screen duties.

Barb Priebe, a longtime volunteer for the event remembers, "Those of us who dedicated ourselves to the entire weekend were very tired when it was over but wouldn't have spent that weekend any other way.  And don't forget the food...we were all fed very well."

The auction evolved in later years to focus only on artwork and crafts and changed its name to Galley 33. Also for a number of years a weekend program called Showcase auctioned off only high-end merchandise valued at $1,000 or more. The auction broadcasts ended in 2004.

As the station celebrates its 50th anniversary, WITF will remember the auction with a special display at the Public Media Center. Joanne Cassaro, who worked as a graphic artist on some of the final auction TV productions, has designed an exhibit to capture the vitality, enthusiasm and excitement of the early auction days.

Huge black-and-white photos of behind the scenes at the auction line one wall of the Lowengard Atrium. A series of vintage TV sets play continual footage from old auction shows. On display also are limited edition art reproductions commissioned in different years as part of the auction. There are set-pieces, including an old auction board and a period TV camera. There's even a life-sized cutout of Mike Greenwald.

The exhibit will be on display in the Lowengard Atrium at the WITF Public Media Center through July 27, available for viewing during regular business hours.



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