Instead of the usual rodeo, rows of chairs lined the dirt floor of the Mathewson Exhibition Center, filled with people ready to bid at the auctioneer’s bid calling contest yesterday morning.
Eleven contestants took the stage and each auctioned off two items in hopes of becoming the Missouri Bid Calling Champion, sponsored by the Missouri Professional Auctioneers Association (MPAA).
Their voices boomed through the arena as they spoke with traditional auctioneer speed, whipping through each item as quickly as possible.
Jerick Miller took first place in the competition and auctioned two more items once he claimed the title.
Miller wasn’t the only one to impress those in attendance. Cookie Lockhart, described as a “rockstar in the auction world” by Rob Weiman, board of directors member for MPAA, made an appearance before the winners were announced.
Lockhart, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., will be celebrating her 50th year in the business this September, and is known around the country as a premier auctioneer who paved the way for women auctioneers.
She started out in horse auctions with her dad and brother, both auctioneers, after she attended auctioneer school in Mason City, Iowa, where she was the only woman in a class of 127 men.
“It never dawned on me that I was doing something different,” Lockhart said. “But people have told me that I inspired a lot of women to be auctioneers, and just businesswomen in general. That was a time when women were supposed to stay at home and wash dishes. I was never very good at that.”
Lockhart has continued to be a pioneer for women auctioneers. She was inducted in the National Auctioneers Association Hall of Fame in 2007, making her the first and only woman in what both Lockhart and Weiman called a “boys club.”
Weiman said only two or three people earn this privilege each year, and to be inducted someone must be an exceptional auctioneer with a long career and be active in the community. Only members of the hall of fame can vote on new inductees.
“I remember people saying there would never be a woman in the hall of fame,” Lockhart said. “Being inducted is what I’m most proud of.”
Wearing a belt, shoes and sunglasses covered in rhinestones and glitter, as well as a large white cowboy hat, Lockhart took the stage while the votes were being tallied and showed off her skills as a professional auctioneer. Her red ostrich boots stayed in their bag — Lockhart said it was a long walk to the arena.
“She’s a real character, a real hoot to be around,” Weiman said. “She’s an out of the box thinker.”
She proved she can talk fast with the best of them while on stage, but she said the chants are only a small part of what an auctioneer does.
“The chant isn’t very difficult, but it’s what people always ask me about,” she said. “It’s a small amount of what we do, but you do have to be good at it.”
Lockhart said people tend to focus on the fast talking aspect of the job because it’s all the public sees, but there is much more involved behind the scenes, such as marketing, advertising and talking with the client to find out more about what will be sold. It’s that part of the job she said she enjoys most.
“You’re helping people,” she said. “You’re helping them solve problems. I consider myself a problem solver. You’re providing a good service when you can help someone settle an estate within 30 days and bring in market price.”
Lockhart said the best item she’s ever sold was a 160-acre plot of land surrounded by forest, so the only way to bring people in was on horseback or by helicopter. Instead of seeing a problem, she used those problem-solving skills and saw it as an opportunity. About 10 people came to the auction, the property was sold, and they had a barbecue for those who came.
When asked why she’s stayed in the business for so long, she offered some advice that applies to more than just her fellow auctioneers.
“If you’re doing something you love, just keep doing it,” she said. “If you’re not doing something you love, find a new vocation.”
For more information about MPAA, visit moauctioneers.org. For more information on Lockhart, visit her website, lockhartauction.com.