by Dawne Belloise
His voice is smooth, soothing with its southern lilt, and with just the right amount of boom and edge to make you sit up and take notice of what he’s saying.
Andy Stewart has been the vocal talent master of ceremonies of Gunnison’s Cattlemen’s Days for eight years and he’s been working the rodeo circuit for 35 years. He started out his unexpected career when he and his brother were practicing team roping and steer wrestling in high school and Andy would pretend to be the rodeo announcer, mimicking what he had heard from emcees at rodeos and on TV.
“I did it so much that my mom dared me to give it a try. So I did,” Andy laughs, with his musical drawl. “There were some people from my church who had a small local play-day association where they did different horse events and I approached them to ask if I could try being the announcer. They said okay and I went to work one day from 7 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. the next day. They paid me $75 and I thought, ‘This is awesome!’”
He soon realized that it was a great way to make a living, especially since he didn’t feel he had the talent to be a professional rodeo rider.
Although there’s no school to teach the art of being a rodeo announcer, Andy explains that there are some clinics given by experienced names of the rodeo emcee clan. “It’s pretty much a learn as you go deal. I don’t believe what we do can be taught because each person is their own individual,” he says of the various styles. “There’s a difference between a public address announcer and what we do—we’re not announcing to move a car. I consider what I do as an informative entertainer. A master of ceremonies. I’m basically a glorified tour guide.”
Andy explains, “I’m there to inform the crowd about what’s taking place, about our sponsors, about the cowboys and the horses, and I want those people to have the best experience for the money when they come to that rodeo and that’s my attitude. I want to be the very best they’ve ever heard for the two and a half hours they’re at that rodeo.”
He spends 42 weeks a year on the road, giving his very best to the rodeo throngs and in the busy summer, he’s away from his home for about ten weeks straight. Andy feels encouraged by the folks he’s met through the events. “It gives me hope in humanity because traveling through the country, there are way, way more good people than there are bad people. I have the opportunity to meet the greatest people from across the country,” he says.
Andy researches the biographies and backgrounds of the rodeo competitors he works with at each event and is current on their important statistics because he’ll represent them with his announcements as they ride. He gathers stories about each rider, although he says not everybody has a story but maybe the horse they ride has a story, so he’ll incorporate that.
However, he doesn’t feel the audience comes to the rodeo to get an education about statistics so he’ll just hit the high points of a rider’s career in the three minutes between loading up in the chute and opening that gate. He fully understands what it takes to compete at an elite level, and conveys that to his audience. And he understands the competitors and their personal drive as well.
“Hunger is a major motivator, it’s a financial motivation for these guys. They’ve got families, they’ve got bills, they’ve got things that they’ve got to pay,” he says. Andy considers himself a researcher, a statistician and an entertainer.
Consequently, as one of the top emcees in professional rodeo, he’s an eight-time nominee for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Announcer of the Year.
When you’re the voice of the rodeo, you develop a fan base, and more important, they’re your clan. “I have a lot of people who follow me. I do a Facebook page blog called ‘On the Road with Andy,’ where I post different things like where we’re traveling to, photos, even something from the golf course,” he says of his other passion, golfing. Many of his posts have an entertaining comedic aspect to them, like his announcing style. “It’s almost like being with me on the road. And the posts are extremely good for my sponsors and the rodeos I work for.
“I’m pretty blessed to be able to travel and do and what I do,” Andy says appreciatively.
About three years ago, while Andy was playing golf at Nacogdoches, Texas, he received a phone call that he figured was a prank call from Cheyenne Frontier Days. “At first, I thought it was joke but it wasn’t and now I am the voice of the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration at Frontier Days,” he says proudly. He’ll be traveling to Wyoming to do that rodeo immediately following Cattlemen’s Days.
“This is my eighth year announcing for Cattlemen’s Days and I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s one of my favorite rodeos,” he says. “The people are wonderful and the scenery is beautiful. There’s a lot of history there, too and you get treated extremely well. It’s special because it’s one of the oldest rodeos in Colorado and there’s so much tradition. What they’ve done through the Tough Enough To Wear Pink campaign is simply phenomenal.
“The people are what make rodeo so special. Rodeo offers me the opportunity to go to a lot of places I don’t normally go and see a lot of things I don’t normally see,” he continues. “The people here are my favorite thing about Cattlemen’s Days—the friends I’ve made, converse with and get to know over the years, that’s what I take away with me and when my rodeo days are done after the years, I’ll still have those relationships and memories. I’m honored and proud to be a part of Cattlemen’s Days and what they represent. I’m thrilled to be the one they’ve chosen to be the voice of their great rodeo.”