17 July 2023

Young Gundagai auctioneer stampedes to the 'greatest outdoor show on earth' in Calgary

| Michael Murphy
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Harry Waters from Elders Gundagai

Harry Waters from Elders Gundagai calls out a bid during the Calgary Stampede’s International Auctioneer Championship. Photo: Show Champions.

The Calgary Stampede is billed as the greatest outdoor show on earth, and after winning the Australian young auctioneer title, Gundagai’s Harry Waters was invited to Canada to compete in the International Livestock Auctioneer Championship.

More than a million people attend the combined agricultural fair and rodeo each year, and for Harry, the international championship was an incredible opportunity to test his skills against 35 of the best cattle sellers in the world.

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The preliminary rounds were held in the township of Olds, Alberta, roughly 83 km north of Calgary. Like the Riverina, the district of Olds is a community-based agriculture region, whose citizens exemplify the core fundamentals behind the stampede.

“It was an unreal experience,” Harry said.

“A bit of a blur while I was up there … sort of went into autopilot a bit, but an unreal experience.

“Danny Skeels, a previous winner of the competition, was a big help to me.”

Calgary Stampede

Calgary Stampede is known as the “greatest outdoor show on earth” with more than one million visitors attending. Photo: Calgary Stampede.

The job that confronted Harry at the prestigious competition could not be overstated. The difficulty of a rookie competitor facing seasoned auctioneers from the USA, Canada and South Africa was coupled with the vastly different styles that the judges, vendors and bidders were used to in this part of the world.

“They do things a lot differently over here,” Harry said.

“In America and Canada, they call the bid that they want rather than the bid that they have, so I announced that I would sell the Australian way just before I started.

“I suppose other than that, they are very quick with the way they do things with their yodels.”

Harry also explained that terminology was another point of difference for the Cowra-born cattle man, with one example being that the North Americans refer to what Australians know as store steers, as green steers.

Two men with trophies and ribbons

The road to Calgary was made possible after Harry (L) won the ALPA Australian Young Auctioneer title earlier in 2023. Photo: Supplied.

Having the privilege to be in the crowd to watch Harry live at the Calgary Stampede-run competition, it was hard to miss the impression that the young Australian left on the spectators, and those involved in the competition.

As we conducted the interview, Harry was continually congratulated, and there was even time for a selfie with a competition organiser.

Another touching moment was in the amphitheatre itself, where the smile on the faces of Harry’s family and friends beamed, as he was introduced to the crowd.

“My mother and father are both here, as well as my girlfriend and a few family and friends, so it was good to look up into the crowd and see some familiar faces,” Harry said.

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The supporter group had made the long journey to Canada from Australia to support Harry, and his mum, Danielle, spoke of the pride in seeing her son compete on the international stage.

“To say I am proud of Harry would be an understatement,” Danielle said.

“He has always been a natural in his field of work, and the love that he has for the industry has made him driven to progress himself, not to mention the hours of hard work and sacrifices he has made along the way.”

Crowd in tiered seating

Harry Waters (right) takes a moment to catch up with his dad, Pat, after the preliminary rounds in Olds, Alberta. Photo: Supplied.

After the initial rounds of competition, Harry’s name was not one of the 10 that was chosen to proceed to the final, but his exclusion was in no way a detraction from his achievements. Harry spoke of the thrill he felt when he won the NSW and Australian titles; the stepping-stones that brought him to Calgary, declaring that he has enjoyed every moment of the journey.

Harry’s fantastic ride was also reflected on by his family after the long day of competition in Olds.

“Seeing Harry win the Australian title was an incredible achievement, and to see the joy on his face is something that I will remember forever,” Danielle said.

“With his father and I there supporting Harry during this remarkable accomplishment, it will be something he will cherish forever, as will we.”

While the competition has come to an end for Harry, there is still a holiday to enjoy, with the Waters contingent set to drive from Calgary to Banff and over the Rockies to Vancouver, before flying home. Then, it is back to work at Elders Gundagai for Harry.

“We’ve actually got a livestock conference in Geelong for a few days, when I first get back,” Harry said, “and then it is back into the work side of things.

“The people in Canada couldn’t have been more welcoming and more friendly. It’s a great place, and I feel privileged to have been here.”

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