An emotional Bill Patten choked back tears as nearly 1,000 people gave him a standing ovation at the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition in Moultrie, Ga.
Patten’s retirement from the Sunbelt Board of Directors was announced at the Farmer of the Year luncheon Oct. 15 during the expo. His retirement marks 36 years of service to the event known as North America’s premier farm show. The expo wouldn’t have been the same without him, said Executive Director Chip Blalock.
“Bill has been involved in every expo since 1978 as an exhibitor, board member and, most of all, a friend,” Blalock said. “He has served every office on the Sunbelt executive board including the last 15 as president. He’s a true Southern gentleman – full of fire and brimstone. He loves the Sunbelt Expo more than all of us put together. He’s one of the hardest working men I know.”
Blalock presented Patten a bronze bull on behalf of the Sunbelt board. He noted that Patten, a native of Jackson Gap who lives in Montgomery, would continue to serve as a board member emeritus.
At 83, Patten is taking a step back but said he will continue to help as needed.
“I’ve been coming over here for two weeks every year for the past 36 years,” said Patten. “There’s always something new at the show because there’s always something new in agriculture. I love everything about the Sunbelt Expo. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I’ve been blessed to work with the best people on earth — farmers, ranchers and agribusiness people.”
Patten worked for Fuller Supply Co. of Montgomery for 38 years where he sold animal and livestock equipment and supplies. He also worked for Alfa Services, a former division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, for a short time. His passion for farm animals helped the show’s livestock section grow to be among the finest in the country, said Jimmy Carlisle, former director of the Federation’s Governmental & Agricultural Programs Department.
“The Sunbelt Ag Expo and the success of this farm show can be directly attributed to Bill Patten,” Carlisle said. “His love for this show was in the livestock sector. Bill was directly responsible for its expansion. It grew from beef to include meat goat and sheep, equine and aquaculture.”
While he’s seen a lot of changes at the expo, Patten said some things don’t change.
“I’ll be here next year, Lord willing,” he said.