RUFFIN — Eli Detweiler Jr. loved to attend farm auctions with his father when he was a child.
Listening to the auctioneers and watching the crowds, the little boy quickly decided what his future career would be.
“Being an auctioneer was always a lifelong dream of mine,” he said.
His career began in April 1993 when, as a 20-year-old, he auctioned his first item — a rusty milk can.
Since then, Detweiler has traveled around developing his skills in the auctioneering field. And, on July 16, Detweiler was named the 2010 Men’s International Auctioneer Champion. He earned his title at the National Auctioneers Association Conference and Show at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
Detweiler will travel around the country, representing the National Auctioneers Association.
The competition, beginning at 6:30 a.m., lasted all day, Detweiler said. A total of 58 men and 22 women vied for titles in separate competitions.
At the beginning, each contestant appeared on stage and sold three items in a live auction setting. Then, the 15 finalists were named. These finalists were asked three questions in individual interviews. Their answers became part of the scoring process, accounting for 40 percent of the total score.
The top six scorers returned to the stage at 6 p.m. and sold three more items. That final bid calling score was added to the other scores.
The top scorer “turned out to be me,” Detweiler said.
“I was stunned. I was able to watch the other contestants perform up on the stage, and I thought there were some contestants who out-performed me.”
He credits his score in the interview portion with propelling him to first place in his ninth try for the title. He scored second in 2005 and third in 2008.
“Entering competitions has always been a great learning and networking experience that has allowed me to grow from a bid-caller into a well-rounded professional auctioneer,” Detweiler said.
The Wisconsin native said growing up with 13 brothers and sisters, “I heard the words ‘shut up’ an awful lot because I was practicing the auctioneer’s chant all the time.”
Although Detweiler’s father wanted him to stay home on the farm, he pursued his auctioneering dream for two years before enrolling at World Wide College of Auctioneering in Mesa City, Iowa, in 1994.
He joined the National and Wisconsin Auctioneers Associations that same year. By the summer of 1995, Detweiler was named Wisconsin Auctioneer Champion at the Wisconsin State Fair. He was the youngest auctioneer to ever win that title.
In 1998, Detweiler moved to North Carolina to further his auctioning career “because there were a lot of auto auctions here and I could work for them,” he said.
After finding a farm he liked, Detweiler moved to Ruffin three years later.
He and his wife, the former Candace Odom of Goldsboro, raise cattle, hay, horses and chickens. They have two children, Alexis, 11, and Logan, 7.
“It’s not really a farm farm,” Detweiler said. “I guess you call it a hobby farm.”
Detweiler has cried the bids at auctions in many different states, including Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee.
He also has worked with other auctioneers at a live art exhibit performance in an opera-house type setting. They performed in Manchester, England; Basel, Switzerland; and Rome, Italy.
“That was a work that I was doing and will be doing again in November,” Detweiler said.
He works five auctions every week, beginning with the Manheim Auto Auction in Statesville on Tuesdays. Wednesday finds him at the Greensboro Auto Auction and the USL Auction in Greenville, N.C. He moves on to Darlington, S.C., on Thursday for another Manheim auction, and on Fridays, he sells at the Carolina Stockyards in Siler City.
On Saturdays, his schedule varies although he mostly works estate or farm machine auctions.
Auto auctions usually sell about 1,000 vehicles a day, but several auctioneers are involved. In Statesville, 18 auctioneers are all calling at the same time.
“Car and live stock auctions are very fast-paced,” Detweiler said. He averages two or three a minute. But he has to slow to about one a minute for estate auctions.
“Ever since I attended my first state and national auctioneer conferences, the members of the associations have become my family of mentors,” said Detweiler, a first-generation auctioneer. “All the members with whom I’ve networked share a part of my success.
“Many of these auctioneers are my heroes, and the genuine interest they have taken in my career has inspired me to constantly improve my skills and broaden my abilities.”
Detweiler also serves as the president-elect of the Auctioneers Association of North Carolina, which has about 400 members.
Ann Fish is a Reidsville native but has lived in Eden since 1979. She is a retired newspaper editor and reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org