Auctioneering is family affair at Pa. bid-calling contest


ABOVE: 2011 Pennsylvania Farm Show bid-calling contest champion Patrick Burke, left, receives the coveted trophy from 2010 winner Lee Hostetter.

Contributing Writer

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Your toughest judge could be your mom.

This year’s Pennsylvania Auctioneer Bid Calling Contest champion was able to get a successful bid from her — a pink opalescent bride’s basket, going for $100 to bidder number 60 — Mom.

In this case, the auctioneer at the final round of the contest was grand champion Patrick Burke. Mom is Gail Burke.

Burke bested 23 other contestants with more than 400 family and friends in attendance at the annual Pennsylvania Bid-Calling Contest at the Pa. Farm Show on Wednesday, Jan. 12, in Harrisburg, Pa.

Family business

Burke works with his brother, Brian, along with the rest of the family on Shamrock Auctions in Meshoppen, Wyoming County.

Burke’s mother, Gail, said the family, including her husband Jerry, has been involved in the auction for 45 years, a family business. Other children involved in the auction include Theresa, Brian, and Patrick.

“We’ve been coming here more than 30 years,” said Gail. “This group is like a big family. If anybody needed help, one e-mail sent out would get many auctioneers to show up and help out anytime. Everybody helps everybody.”

Tough competition

Contestants are allowed one warm-up round, not judged, and must sell two items in a preliminary and final round (if they advance). The contestants have about 15-20 minutes each to examine the items. A maximum of three minutes is granted each contestant to demonstrate his or her ability.

The final round has 10 contestants who must sell two items.

On the preliminary form, judges rank contestants on their presentation, including introduction, initial command, overall appearance, and poise. On the chant/voice scoring, voice control (pitch/break voice), clarity, speed (too fast or too slow), rhythm, and voice extension/use of filler words are critical.

Effective auctioneer techniques include eye control, scanning the audience, and holding the attention of the audience.

This year’s champion has been licensed about 20 years from Reppert Auction School, Auburn, Ind., since he was about 17.

Burke said he auctions antiques, real estate, and machinery. His “favorite,” if he could choose one, would be autos, which he sells about three days per week in Washington, D.C. and Odessa, N.J.

“You have to know your product,” Burke said.

Top finishers

Finishing in second place was Chet Geyer, Macungie, Pa. Jonathan Hummer, Manheim, Pa., placed in third.

Rookie of the Year was Rhonda Nissley, Mount Joy, Pa.

The auction tradition

“Most of our food and fiber goes through an auction,” said Jim Lewis of Chuck’s Auction, Wyoming, Pa., who helped coordinate the event, and has been in the auction business for 35 years.

“If you did not cut your Christmas tree and it wasn’t artificial, it went through a wholesale auction.”

The bid-calling contest, the 32nd annual event, is conducted alongside the annual Pennsylvania Auctioneer Association convention at the Sheraton Inn near Harrisburg, Pa., with more than 300 auctioneers registered.


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