Valentine Livestock Auction, (VLA) in Valentine, Neb., hosted the state’s first ever Greater Midwest Livestock Auctioneer Championship (GMWLA) on February 9, 2013. While the contest was going on, downtown Valentine held its 12th annual ‘Heart City Bull Bash’ on Main Street. Shuttle service provided by Prairie Club Golf allowed visitors to enjoy all the festivities highlighting beef, the No. 1 component of agriculture, the No. 1 industry in Nebraska.
VLA is an investor owned market, comprising of 26 owners with Greg Arendt, manager. Greg began the day by thanking Mike Nuss, contest organizer and all those responsible for bringing this national event to the Sandhills, “The purpose of the contest is to focus on the role of the livestock auctioneer and livestock market in what we feel is the best possible way to merchandise all classes of livestock.”
A total of 31 contestants from 14 states and Canada had the opportunity to highlight their talent in front of a packed house. Some 4,000 head of cattle were consigned for this special sale day. In order to compete, the contestants had to be at least 18 years of age and sponsored by LMA (Livestock Marketing Association) members. They were assisted in their time at the microphone by Mike Baxter of Ainsworth. Mike won the GMWLA contest in 1991, and then went on to win the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship (WLAC) in 1995. Also assisting was the 2012 GMWLA winner, Brandon Neeley from Southside, Ala.
Judges for the day were auctioneers Ted Baum of O’Neil, Neb., Keith Saathoff of Plainview, Neb., Jack Hunter of Crawford, Neb., Dan Clark of Winner, S.D., and John Wagner of Blue Earth, Minn.
Making the second round of competition were Tony Heinze of Dazey, N.D., Rusty Taylor of White City, Kan., Jeremy Austine of Holden, Mo., Don Helberg of Gering, Neb., Justin Abell of Sigourney, Iowa, Kevin Schow of Paxton, Neb., Douglas Day of Loup City, Neb., Jared Miller of Leon, Iowa, Brennin Jack of Weyburn, Canada Saskatchewan, Michael Imbrogno of Fresno, Calif., and Jay Romine, Mt. Washington, Ky.
Third place was won by Douglas Day of Loup City, Neb. The only Canadian contestant, Brennin Jack, did not go back empty handed as he received second. First place honors went to Don Helberg of Gering, Neb., (Auctioneering runs in the Helberg family, as Don’s dad, Glen won the World in 1965).
Prior to the winners being announced, Mike Nuss, emceed the presentation of what is hoped to be an annual award. “This contest began in 1989 as a Tri-State Auctioneer Contest, which was organized by the North Dakota Auctioneers Association and the West Fargo (SD) Stockyards. Then there were three states, which expanded to include five states — Iowa, Wyoming, both Dakotas and Wisconsin. Nebraska became a member just in recent years. The award will honor the dedication and commitment of auctioneers who continue to market livestock in what the LMA deems the best possible way, through the sale ring. We are calling it the ‘Tony Heinze Award’ as Tony was one of the organizers of the first contest and continues his support of what he and others began by being here competing today.” First time winner was the award’s namesake, Tony Heinze. Longtime friend, Keith Saathoff, had the honor of presenting the award.
June 12-14, 2013 will mark the 50th year of the World Livestock Auctioneer Championship which will be held in Montgomery, Alabama. ❖