A Perham businessman is about to compete in what industry insiders call, "the Super Bowl of livestock auctioneering."
Mitchell Barthel, owner of Perham Stockyards, Inc., is one of 33 semi-finalists who will be dueling is out at the 2012 World Livestock Auctioneer Championship in Turlock, Calif., this week.
This is Barthel's third time in the semi-finals. He competed in 2010, and was 13th in the world in 2009.
He guaranteed himself a spot again this year after winning the quarterfinals in Dickinson, N.D., on Oct. 20.
In front of a crowd of hundreds of people, Barthel will answer three industry-related questions in an interview segment of the competition. He'll also be judged on clarity of chant and voice quality, bid catching ability, and conduct of the sale while selling eight drafts of livestock during a live sale.
Ten finalists will be selected from the semi-finals based on a combined judge's score of the interview and live auction. These finalists will go on to sell 10 additional drafts, and one of them will emerge as the auctioneering champion.
The winner becomes a yearlong spokesperson for the Livestock Marketing Association, traveling all over the country for special sales and events. He or she also wins a new truck for a year, plus $5,000 cash and other prizes.
In an interview with Barthel last Wednesday, he said he and his family were getting packed up for their weeklong trip to California. The competition, going on June 14-16, corresponds with the Livestock Marketing Association's annual convention, which is held in a different location every year.
The 37-year-old Barthel has been a licensed and bonded auctioneer since he was 16. Auctioneering is a family business, he said, and "I've been around this kind of thing my whole life. I was playing with toy cows at the age of two."
A graduate of the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa, Barthel grew up on a farm near New York Mills. His family bought the Perham Stockyards in 1998, and he's been a part of the auctioneering world ever since.
As of Wednesday, Barthel said he wasn't nervous about the competition, and was looking forward to going. But he admitted that, "when you start seeing the other auctioneers, it can get intimidating."
The most challenging part of the competition, Barthel said, is the interview: "We're not used to talking in front of people. That's the most nerve-wracking part."
But Barthel is feeling good about having made it this far. Though he would of course like to win, he said he could always try again next year if he doesn't. After you win a competition once, he said, you're ineligible to compete again.
"It's a pretty big deal if you win," he said. "You've got to have a little luck. You've got to be very good and be on top of your game, and then hopefully all the judges like you. The biggest thing is to be confident. You've got to sit down and do your job, like I do here in Perham every Monday (the stockyard's auction day)."
Barthel is married to Tricia, a third grade teacher in Perham. They have two daughters, Brooklyn, 4, and Brightyn, 2.