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story.lead_photo.caption Photo courtesy Graham Thomas Rodeo announcer Jeff Lee and his horse and co-star Dusty will be in action later this month at the Rodeo of the Ozarks in Springdale.

Jeff Lee learned plenty of lessons about rodeo growing up in Yell County.

The son of parents who were heavily involved in the sport -- his dad was a saddle bronc rider and his mom a barrel racer -- Lee learned what a rodeo should look like, what it should sound like, what it should feel like and how it should be performed.

FAQ

Rodeo of the Ozarks

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. June 27-30

WHERE — Parsons Stadiums in Springdale

COST — $7-$38

INFO — 756-0464

BONUS — Rodeo parades will take place down Emma Avenue at 3 p.m. June 27 & June 30. There will be fireworks after the rodeo on June 30.

"The most important part," he says, "was we need to honor people's money. Because, especially nowadays, there's so many things people can go do. ... They can sit (and play) on their phone in the living room and be entertained. When they come out here (to the rodeo) and pay money, there should be an entertainment aspect where those people leave here and say 'I'll come back.'"

Rodeo is something Lee takes very seriously, and it's turned into his career.

Lee, a Siloam Springs resident, is a professional rodeo announcer who travels across the country performing at rodeos big and small. But he won't have to travel very far for the next few weeks as he's set to announce the 60th annual Siloam Springs Rodeo first, then the Rodeo of the Ozarks in Springdale. It's his fifth year doing his hometown rodeo and his fourth in Springdale.

For a guy that's traveled as far away as Alaska to announce a rodeo -- Lee says that he works anywhere between 35 to 40 rodeo events a year -- being able to stay home is a nice change of pace.

"Routinely I'm 10 to 12 hours from home when I perform," Lee says. "To be able to come home for a couple of weeks out of that time period is nice."

After graduating from Arkansas Tech with a degree in agriculture business, Lee moved to Siloam Springs in 2006 to take a job with Simmons Foods. He stayed with the company for only a couple of years, but he loved the area so much he decided to make it his home. He started producing rodeos and Professional Bull Rider events. He also landed a job at Superior in Siloam Springs doing fleet sales, which gave him the flexibility he needed to pursue announcing rodeo full time.

Lee's perspective was that in the entertainment industry, it's harder to be considered professional in your home town than it is anywhere else.

"I consider this entertainment," Lee says. "People pay to come see us perform. It's kind of an old saying in our industry, and I think it holds true. 'You're not considered professional unless you're 200 miles from home.' It took people a while to realize that I have the talent to perform here."

Lee doesn't work alone either. He and his wife, Jerrica, are a team when it comes to announcing.

"She's the one that is playing music, kind of orchestrating, setting the tone," Lee says. "If you're watching a movie and you're at a serious part in the movie, you need some music to set that tone. She's a really important part to that. She can help me set the tone for whatever we're doing out there in the arena and she's really good at it."

Jeff and Jerrica Lee have been married for 10 years and have three boys -- Kody, 8; Kolt, 5; and Kord, 1.

"I don't get to work with her everywhere I go, but the rodeos I get to work with her I feel like there's a lot less stress on my mind, because we're kind of in tune on how things should go," he says. "My wife is pretty soft-spoken, but if she speaks up, it's usually a pretty good idea to listen to her."

And then there's Dusty, Lee's 23-year-old American paint horse and co-star of his announcing gig.

"Dusty's old enough to drink," Lee jokes.

Lee does all of his announcing on horseback on Dusty on the arena floor. Lee says announcing on horseback is something of a declining trend.

"There's fewer and fewer guys that announce horseback just for obvious reasons," he says. "It's easier to get on an airplane and fly to your rodeo and walk up to the announcer stand and do that. Cost wise, the cost to bring me to a show compared to a guy that will walk in, he's got less cost involved. He doesn't have a whole horse trailer and horse to perform with. I think it's not necessarily a dying breed, but you see a lot less guys doing it."

Lee cites legendary local announcers Phil Gardenhire and Danny Newland as role-model announcers.

"I always knew that for me announcing, it was unnatural for me to be in the announcer's stand, because I grew up watching great announcers perform on horseback."

Photo courtesy Graham Thomas Rodeo announcer Jeff Lee announces on horseback in the arena, a tradition he says is dying.

NAN What's Up on 06/17/2018

Print Headline: The Voice Of The Rodeo

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