A rodeo first: A painting brings in more bucks than the grand champion steer
Something funny happened on the way to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo steer auction on Saturday. Maybe the bloody Mary's and milk punches didn't flow freely enough at the steer auction breakfast. Or perhaps it was because Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale, always a big buyer, didn't show.
Whatever the reason, the Grand Champion steer went for a price so low that the following day the Grand Champion artwork went for more.
And that is unheard of in RodeoHouston annals.
The beef sold to high-bidder Paul Somerville, a former rodeo chairman, for a song at $175,000, just over half of the $300,000 top bid made for the Grand Champion in 2009, 2008 and 2007.
On Sunday at the School Art Auction, Somerville joined with Mimi and Tom Dompier, Joe Van Matre, and Lynda and Jim Wynne in making the winning $190,000 bid on an oil painting titled, "A Piece of Heaven," done by 15-year-old Lamar ISD student Christy Beltz (who also won grand champion artwork honors for the elementary school division in 2006). The cheers that erupted at this record rodeo artwork sale were in stark contrast to the polite applause that greeted sale of the steer.
But hold on to your horses before you start singing the cowboy blues, says Joel Cowley, RodeoHouston executive director of agricultural programs. The overall take from the steeer auction, he said, is expected to approach the $3.3 million figure that was raised last year. (Totals will not be finalized until the end of the week.) After all, more than $2 million was committed before the first auction gavel fell.
Cowley pointed to the Reserve Grand Champion that went for $168,000, well over last-year's purchase price of $100,000, though well under the $365,000 paid in 2001. But that year, the Grand Champion went for $600,000, thank you McIngvales.
As one veteran Steer Auction committee member attempted to explain it, in the previous big-bucks years, the grand champions were purchased by consortiums of wealthy buyers. This year, the winning steer was bought by an individual. But, we ask, where were the consortiums this year?
Not to worry, counters Cowley. "All of our auctions have been up over last year, which we're very excited about with this uncertain economy." He also pointed out that the champion steer that went for $175,000 is valued at a mere $1,100 on the open market. "Not bad no matter how you look at it," he said.