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Auction proves to be big hit with tribal members

Michael Onco, left, and Chaska Osceola examine heavy equipment at a tribal auction Jan. 25, 2024, in Big Cypress. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

BIG CYPRESS — Tribal members came from every reservation to try their luck, not in a casino, but at an auction of everything from the kitchen sink to a hydraulic excavator.
More than 300 items were auctioned off in the parking lot of Billie Swamp Safari on Jan. 25 for tribal members and Jan.26 for the general public. Everything was simultaneously available online so bidders faced in person and online competition for the items they wanted.
The auction was a one-time only event to dispose of excess equipment from Billie Swamp Safari and other departments.

“It started because tribal members wanted to buy some things from Billie Swamp Safari,” said Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie. “I had to make it fair for everyone who wanted stuff. It’s a good turnout and, for me, it’s good entertainment. This is like a family reunion. We don’t see each other that often during the year.”

Royal Auction Group facilitated the auction and spent three weeks staging, photographing, writing descriptions for every item and advertising it to the U.S. market. Everything for sale had a reserve price. If that wasn’t met on the first day, the item was held for the second day when the general public was allowed to bid.

“All the items have exceeded their life cycles and have been replaced,” said Fleet Services director Sandy Leonard. “It would have taken years to sell all this stuff. The auction brings some excitement, people are liking it.”

During the auction, the auctioneer sat in a trailer with speakers outside. The trailer was pulled by a pickup truck and the crowd followed it down the aisles as each item was sold. Auction staff on the ground received people’s bids and encouraged them to make more than one bid. One man’s sole job was to stand with a large sign on a long pole which read “Selling this item” inside an arrow pointing down.

Some auction items included heavy equipment, such as a large hydraulic excavator, tractors, backhoes, bulldozers and more. Chaska Osceola and Michael Onco closely examined a mulcher – used by the Wildland Fire Department to clear land ahead of a fire – for Osceola’s landscape and lawn care business.

Noel Posada, left, Isaiah Posada, center, and Ally Posada try to decide whether to continue bidding on a pickup truck Jan. 25, 2024, in Big Cypress. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Rita Youngman was looking for a good deal on equipment, cars and anything else that caught her eye.

“I have a lot of land to clear, so I’m looking for bulldozers and backhoe loaders to take down some trees,” she said.

Riding mowers and generators from small to large enough to power houses, ATVs, UTVs and side-by-side vehicles of various sizes and condition were all popular items. But cars, pickup trucks and SUVs were perhaps the most popular items.

Some tribal members purchased more than one vehicle. Ally Posada, who attended the auction with two of her sons, bought a 4×4 pickup truck and two SUVs. Virginia Osceola got a 4×4 pickup truck, an SUV and a Polaris Ranger UTV.

“I drive back and forth to Trail a lot, so the Tahoe was a good purchase,” Osceola said.

Potential bidders eye kitchen supplies up at the auction Jan. 25, 2024, in Big Cypress. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Helene Buster won the bid for one of the most popular vehicles, a Ford Flex. She plans to give it to one of her granddaughters.

“It was a tribal vehicle, so you know it was well maintained,” she said.

Cassandra Jones took a practical approach to the auction; she bought a UTV for her kids to use to feed their 4-H animals.

A few of Billie Swamp Safari’s large swamp buggies and airboats attracted numerous bidders. . Some were in decent condition and some were in rough shape. Cory Wilcox bought one of the airboats and lost in the bidding on a second one, but he is happy with the purchase.

“It’s a project boat,” Wilcox said. “I’ll fix it up and get it running; I enjoy that.”

Cory Wilcox, center, and his wife, Crystal Wilcox, make a bid on an airboat as the auction staff member acknowledges the bid Jan. 25, 2024, in Big Cypress. They won the bidding for a large airboat with bench seating. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Other buggies and airboats in various states of repair went quickly as well as two never-used aluminum Tracker boats. Other items included about a dozen adult tricycles and some trailers and flatbeds.

Reese Bert was looking for landscaping or welding equipment, but he bought one of the large Billie Swamp Safari buggies.

Mary Jene Koenes bought a 40-foot shipping container, which she will put in her pasture to store equipment.

“I’ll raise it up on concrete so moisture won’t get inside and keep the wood floor from rotting,” she said. “I have a smaller one in my backyard that’s been there for years and no moisture has ever gotten inside.”

The auction was deemed a success. Executive director of Finance John Woodruff said such a big auction might not be necessary again.

Heavy equipment vehicles were part of the auction Jan. 25, 2024, in Big Cypress. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

“Now that we have a Fleet Department, I hope we plan on disposing of equipment in a timely manner,” he said.

About 150 people attended the auction on the first day, including 98 registered bidders. Tribal members bought about 200 items. The second day had about 50 attendees. Leonard said he was satisfied that they exceeded their goal for the auction.

“The big picture is that we improved our process of getting rid of obsolete stuff that is an eyesore,” he said. “And the tribal members really enjoyed it.”

Audrey Osceola and her father, Eric Osceola, think about bidding as the auction staffer encourages them to do so with gestures Jan. 25, 2024, in Big Cypress. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
– The crowd at the Seminole Tribe of Florida fleet auction in Big Cypress on Jan. 25, 2024, surrounds the trailer carrying the auctioneer as they look at the items for sale in the Billie Swamp Safari parking lot. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at