The voice came from the clouds. Zane Parker sat on horseback outside the Stampede Park fencing as saddle bronc action commenced.
This was a new deal for Parker, the Cody Nite Rodeo public address announcer. Fans of the Cody Stampede are familiar with Boyd Polhamus, who broadcasts to the crowd from the back of a horse throughout.
While others in the rodeo world handle the duties from inside the arena while simultaneously riding and handling a microphone, most do the job from an announcer’s booth.
In his second season as Nite Rodeo announcer, Parker decided to experiment with a different style beginning at the end of June. The move definitely upgrades an announcer’s visibility rather than just being a disembodied voice.
“It’s creating new challenges for yourself and presenting something new,” said Parker, 22, of Stephenville, Texas.
Acquiring the knack of announcing in two ways will also make Parker more attractive as he makes announcing a career.
“You go some places contractors will ask you to do it,” Parker said.
Informing fans from horseback inside the arena is a Polhamus trademark. The technique adds showmanship to the show and fans can see who is doing the talking.
After coming up with the idea to expand his horizons, Parker had to borrow a horse. He seemed to have little difficulty adapting to making his event introductions, uttering his rider bios or bantering with the clown while on horseback.
However, the horse wasn’t sure what to make of the echoing sounds of Parker’s voice so close to its ears. Perhaps it was like the loudspeaker times two. So Parker had to get his mount used to its role in this bit.
Partially because of the possibility of a horse acting in a skittish manner, Parker does wheel the horse outside the fences during bareback, saddle bronc and bulls. That keeps them out of the way since those horses and bulls tend to gallop around at high speed, leading pick-up men on merry chases.
As a young man thinking ahead, this is a worthwhile effort by Parker to help set himself apart from most announcers as he progresses in his career.
“That opens up some avenues,” he said. “It’s a personal aspiration.”
It also adds flavor for the audience. A large percentage of Cody Nite Rodeo spectators are first-time rodeo watchers, so they may think this is how it is done everywhere. For regulars, or repeat customers, announcing from horseback can make things a little more entertaining.
Mo Betta Rodeo stock contractor Maury Tate, who operates Cody Nite Rodeo, said he sees announcers performing those duties on horseback at various rodeos elsewhere.
“There are a lot of them who don’t want to do it,” Tate said. “If you do it, you can get work.”
But he also said it takes some sharp horse handling to ensure the rider remains out of the way of the bucking animals and pick-up men. The arena can shrink in a hurry.
“He was a little bit wary about it,” Parker said of Tate when he started a couple of weeks ago.
In the beginning, Parker used the same horse all of the time, borrowed from pick-up man Nash Stanfield. After the horse seemed to be adjusting to the noise coming from behind his head, Parker told Stanfield, “I might have to buy the horse from you.”
Parker plans to keep practicing this method to make sure he can offer rodeo directors a bonus skill.
“I’m going to keep working on it,” he said.
He likes the spotlight, as compared to being high above court-side “in the box,” as he put it. If he steps back from the window fans can’t even see him.
“Being in front of the people, being able to wave to the people, when you ask them to cheer, they’re not just looking up to an empty box,” Parker said.
He will be talking right to them.