Sold!: Auctioneers sound off during bid calling contest at Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo

Feb 2, 2023 | Auctioneers, Champions |

Fast-talking auctioneers are commonplace at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, but a relatively new competition gave them the opportunity to show off their skills beyond selling livestock. 

Twenty-three contestants sounded off in front of a packed audience for the title at the Texas Lone Star Open Bid Calling Contest.

It was the sixth year of the annual competition and their second at the Stock Show.

The idea for the competition formed around 2015, as a way to educate and engage the public about their profession.

“Joel Lemley and I were at his ranch in Blackwell, Texas and we decided we should put on an auctioneer contest,” said Troy Robinett, the current president of the Texas Auctioneers Association

The competition is also a live auction where the audience members double as bidders. 

Robinett sees the competition as a way to highlight the work that auctioneers do and showcase their ability to find the true value of an asset. 

“If you list a house for sale. That’s not saying that’s the value of the house. That’s what the seller wants and what you hope the buyer will give. But in an auction setting, the price is established when two people bid against each other and what they are willing to give for it is the market that day,” he explained. “So we wanted to showcase that talent and that ability and then all the hard work and dedication that auctioneers put into their craft.”

To show their skills, each contestant brought two lots, usually one big item or multiple smaller items, to sell.

A raucous round of bidding ensued as contestants sold items ranging from speakers to steaks.

How competitors are judged

There are six different categories judges consider.

  • Opening statement – How well do they introduce themselves and their items? 
  • Style – How is the contestant’s delivery, eye contact with the audience and gestures?
  • Overall bid calling – How is their voice control, volume, rhythm, speed and clarity during their chant?
  • Overall impression – Did they fairly represent the items and engage with the audience? 
  • Salesmanship – Were they able to escalate the bids, reach a sale and repeat information about the final sale price and bidder in a timely manner? 
  • Would you hire this auctioneer?

‘One of the strongest competitions out there’

Marcela Davila is a bilingual auctioneer and traveled from New Mexico for the chance to compete.

“I have only been in four auctioneering competitions in my life,” she said. “Competing makes you grow as an engineer even though it puts you out of your comfort zone. This is one of the strongest competitions that’s out there.”

Before attending auctioneering school, Davila was a medical interpreter, which she said makes it easy for her to toggle between Spanish and English when she’s on stage. 

“My first competition was in New Orleans and I’d never sold in English before, so I needed some spot to be in my comfort zone and that was Spanish,” she said. “I thought if I repeated the number in Spanish I wouldn’t lose track of where I was, so that became a thing. After a while, I realized there is a need out there for some companies.” 

The competition doesn’t separate contestants by age, experience or gender.

‘You’re there to perform and entertain’

Shawn Hamilton went to auctioneering school in the late 1980s and spent a few years bid-calling as a hobby before building a career performing cattle, cars and charity auctions.

Despite being a veteran of the industry, he’d never entered an auctioneering competition until this one.

But, having moved to North Texas recently and scaling back some of his other professional commitments, Hamilton had the time to compete and was eager to network with other auctioneers in the area.

“It’s also a great way to meet people, a great way to improve your skills, advance your career in networking and supporting the industry that we’re in,” he said. 

Ahead of the competition, Hamilton said he revisited some tongue twisters and number drills that he was taught in auction school in addition to practicing his chant while driving. 

“I’m just going to go up there and have fun,” he said. “You’re not put on the stage just to just call off numbers. You’re there to perform and entertain and also be there and to do it efficiently because you’re a small part of a very large program … creating an environment conducive to giving.”

Winner takes home $10,000 and a custom saddle

The four top scorers and one “wildcard” competitor, as selected by the judges, earned belt buckles and advanced to the final round.

The slate was wiped clean for the finalists, and this time they would sell items that were provided by the competition. 

Trey Gallaway ultimately walked away as the victor, winning the grand prize of $10,000 and a custom saddle.

A portion of the proceeds from the day’s sales will be used to help fund scholarships for 4-H and FFA students interested in pursuing auctioneering school.

“That’s one neat thing about the auction community,” Hamilton said. 

“Even in this environment where it’s a competition, they’re still looking for a way to give.”

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or on Twitter.


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