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Published June 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

Livestock auctioneers go for world title in Fergus Falls

Updated 3:56 p.m. Nick Caspers’ rich, deep voice is quiet and low-key in everyday conversation. But when he’s earning his living, his voice jumps into hyperdrive, generating the rhythmic chanting of a professional auctioneer.

By: Jon Knutson, INFORUM

Fergus Falls, Minn.

Nick Caspers’ rich, deep voice is quiet and low-key in everyday conversation.

But when he’s earning his living, his voice jumps into hyperdrive, generating the rhythmic chanting of a professional auctioneer.

“There’s a reason we do it. We’re building excitement for the sale,” the Hecla, S.D., auctioneer said of his profession’s fast-talking ways.

Caspers was one of 33 contestants in the 46th annual World Livestock Auctioneer Championship held Saturday in Fergus Falls.

The event caps the Livestock Marketing Association’s annual convention being held in Fargo.

About 1,000 people are attending the convention.

For the contestants, the event is a really big deal.

“It’s like the Super Bowl. It’s like the Miss America contest,” said Justin Dodson, a Welch, Okla., an auctioneer competing in the event for the 11th time.

An auctioneer who wins the world championship isn’t eligible for future competitions.

Dodson and the other 32 contestants who competed Saturday qualified through regional contests conducted last year.

Saturday’s event featured an actual livestock auction in which the contestants took turns leading.

The judging criteria included the clarity of their chant, vocal quality, bid-catching ability and conduct of the sale, said John McBride, the association’s director of information.

Dodson said he’s worked long and hard at his craft, even listening to recordings of top auctioneers.

Mitch Barthel, a Perham, Minn., auctioneer, qualified for the world championship competition for the first time this year.

Now 34, he’s been an auctioneer since he was 16.

And how does someone become an auctioneer?

“That’s like asking how someone becomes a doctor or a baseball player,” he said.

Barthel said he’s been involved in the livestock auction industry most of his life and always looked for opportunities to work as an auctioneer.The auctioneer’s chant helps to build intensity and excitement for the sale, he said.

The world championship has never been held in North Dakota and only once (in 1981 in St. Paul) in Minnesota, McBride said.

Last year’s convention and contest were held in the Sioux Falls, S.D., area.

This year’s contest was held at the Fergus Falls Livestock Auction Market.

Owner Joe Varner said he’s long wanted to bring the championship to this area.

Many of the observers at Saturday’s event had close ties to the livestock industry or the contestants.

The attendees included Mikki Caspers, Nick’s mother.

“It’s a beautiful day and a great event with friendly, down-to-earth people,” she said.

“This is just a lot of fun.”

And the winner is ...

Ty Thompson is the 2009 World Livestock Auctioneer Champion.

The Billings, Mont., auctioneer won the 46th annual contest Saturday.

Thirty-three auctioneers were competing for the title.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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