Troy Freeman was in the Fort Smith area over the weekend painting on the side of a barn. He’s got 34 more around the U.S. to paint before Oct. 18. Barring bad weather, bugs, and pollen, he says, it’s doable.
The barn painting was a new aspect to a weekend that brings several hundred people from around the country to a unique Angus cattle sale that includes events in Lavaca and downtown Fort Smith. An estimated 500 people were served at a Friday night pre-sale event at the DoubleTree Hotel in Fort Smith, Julie French McMahon said. The main event was the Saturday (March 24) cattle sale in Lavaca, in which 180 registered Angus cattle with extensive pedigrees were sold. One auctioneer and four “ring men” managed the auction attended by an expected crowd of 300.
The Lavaca barn is a former feed mill converted into a sale barn and for other uses by the family of Mary Ann and David McMahon Sr., who purchased the Lavaca farm in 1975. McMahon Sr. passed away in March 2016. McMahon Sr. inherited Belle Point Beverages, the Budweiser distributorship based in downtown Fort Smith, in 1965 when his father died.
David and Mary Ann began cattle farming in 1956, but expanded the cattle operation in 1975 when they bought the ranch property in Lavaca – recognized by many as the farm with the large silo painted to look like a Budweiser can. The family has held a large Angus production sale every year since 1978.
This year the Wooster, Ohio-based Certified Angus Beef Brand association coordinated with the McMahon family to paint the group’s beef brand logo on the west side of the Lavaca sale barn, said McMahon French, one of David and Mary Ann’s daughters. Bryan Schaaf, chief liaison and communications manager for Certified Angus, said the barn is one of 40 to be painted this year as part of the group’s 40th anniversary.
“This spot we chose because of the folks here. … The (McMahon) family is known around the country for what they do here for the (Angus) brand,” Schaaf said, adding that it’s the only barn in Arkansas among the 40 to be painted.
Schaaf said the 40 barns are to be finished by Oct. 18. It’s the 40th anniversary date of the organization founded by ranchers who wanted to create a set of standards for Angus beef raised by ranchers and sold to consumers. The ranchers worked with Dr. Bob VanStavern, a meat scientist from The Ohio State University, to develop a rigid set of standards. The beef has to meet 10 standards, and only three in 10 Angus cattle qualify for the certification, according to the group’s website. The group makes it a point to note that Walmart does not sell Certified Angus Beef.
DOWNTOWN FORT SMITH MURALS FAN
Freeman, owner of Springfield, Ill.-based Free Sky Studios, has painted more than 10 years, and professionally for five years. In addition to barns and silos, his projects include interior and exterior restaurant murals, day care walls, churches, and large window displays.
Fort Smith was on Freeman’s radar before he was contracted for the barn painting. He is a long-distance fan of the murals in downtown Fort Smith produced by the Unexpected Project, and an “Instragram friend” with Ana Maria, one of the artists with works in downtown Fort Smith.
Ana Maria is originally from Puerto Rico. Her work utilizes an interpretive storytelling style with different dimensions of life and time as well as characters with mixed phenotypes — animal, mechanical, and human. She opened a teaching studio in Fort Smith in January 2017. Freeman had hoped for a visit with Ana Maria, but said she was out of town working on a mural project.
As of Friday (March 23), Freeman had yet to see all the murals, but responded with a definitive “Oh, yeah,” when asked if he would do so before leaving town.
He said the contract work with Certified Angus Beef Brand and others allow him to donate his time when community projects arise.
“I do this (barn painting), and then I can go back home and donate my services,” Freeman said. “When that mayor calls … they don’t always have the grants or the funding to do what they want. So work like this helps, because I can do more of that (volunteer work).”