[Photo: 4-C Photography]
Rodeo announcers play a vital role in rodeo performances, carrying the responsibility to educate, entertain, and ignite the audience. The colorful commentary unpacking the events, rules, livestock, and contestant stats enhances the action playing out in the arena, bringing electric energy to the venue.
Announcers strive to deliver an insightful narration with a clear powerful voice to the unscripted event. Their wealth of knowledge of the sport and quick wit takes the audience on an entertaining ride from building excitement to navigating through unexpected situations.
A familiar voice taking the seat behind the mic at rodeos across the Midwest is Shaun Maher from Timber Lake, South Dakota, who is carrying on his family’s passion for rodeo. Maher turns up the mic to give us an amplified synopsis of his journey as an announcer.
Rodeo roots run deep in your family. Competing in the arena is second nature. What lured you in to announcing the action in the arena?
“The onset of my rodeo announcing career is a one-of-a-kind story, proving that rodeo roots never stray far from the heart. I caught the rodeo bug quickly, growing up in a big rodeo family with my parents claiming the Badlands Circuit Champion titles in Bull Riding and Barrel Racing.”
“I began rodeoing at a very young age, falling into my dad’s footsteps, riding bulls up until I graduated from high school. During my high school career, I had five surgeries in four years. I was hurt more than I was healthy, which led me to step away from the game. Sadly, I held some anger at the sport of rodeo, not attending a single rodeo for about two years. Then out of the blue, I was asked to volunteer my time at a local high school rodeo and quickly realized I found my true calling and passion. My announcing career was launched at that moment and quickly picked up speed from there.”
The announcer can set the stage for the rodeo performance, bringing an array of emotions for the crowd to experience while watching the action play out in the arena. As an announcer, what is the impact you are hoping to leave on the spectators at the rodeo?
“My goal at the end of each rodeo is for people to have had so much fun (that) they will love the sport of rodeo just as much as I do. Having the crowd participate in the event by making some noise and cheering along will hopefully having them saying, ‘I can’t wait to come back next year.’ There is nothing I love more than seeing non-rodeo people in their cowboy hats and boots when the rodeo comes to town. Whether an individual grew up in the western lifestyle or not, I hope everyone gets a taste of the cowboy way of life and enjoys being a part of the action for a few short hours.”
“Just like any sport, there are moments of high excitement as well as moments of concern or tension. I strive to guide the crowd on the rollercoaster ride, whether it is building anticipation or helping the audience work through an animal or athlete injury.”
Like all rodeo events, announcing takes preparation to perform your best. Take us down the trail on how you prepare for a rodeo.
“Homework, homework, homework. It is the behind-the-scenes preparation as a rodeo announcer that people do not see that makes a big difference. During my off days, I often do homework on every single contestant, checking current and past positions in the standings, their winnings, and even what they do when they are not rodeoing. Telling the crowd about contestant winning stats is cool and all, but it’s even cooler when I can let the crowd know, ‘Hey, this young man just had a newborn baby a few weeks ago,’ or ‘When this young lady isn’t barrel racing, she’s a pretty dang good mom!’ Although the days of sitting at home on my computer studying can get long, it’s well worth having the knowledge when that contestant nods his head in the bucking chute, backs into the roping box, or fires into the arena towards the first barrel.”
Picking up the mic comes with trial and error to find the perfect rhythm. As you continue to grow in your skill,who has helped you put your personal brand on your announcing?
“First, I want to thank God Almighty for every single opportunity he has given me in my life along with my family and three boys: Duke, Stone, and Rookie. The fact that I get paid to do what I truly love for a living and be around the sport of rodeo brings nothing but a smile to my face.”
“My next inspiration is my dad who has been a long-time judge in the sport of rodeo. As a kid, I tagged along with my dad to a lot of rodeos where I got the chance to truly learn and understand the sport of rodeo. Once I started announcing, as soon as the rodeo was over, my dad would give me constructive criticism on what I should or should not say, what to look for, and key tips and tricks to remember during the rodeo.”
“I have been very fortunate to have professionals in the rodeo world take me under their wings. I would not have made it as far as I have without my good friend and longtime rodeo announcer, Ty Dean, in my corner. There have been many times where Dean offered my name to a committee when he was unable to accept the announcer gig, providing me a foot in the door. PRCA rodeo announcers, Scott Grover and Kory Keeth, also have been huge with pushing my game to the professional level; I don’t think I will ever be able to repay them. Rodeo announcers are truly good people, doing their best to grow the sport and help the younger generation. I can’t wait to give back, just like they have done for me.”
As your career picks up speed, opportunities begin to appear with endless possibilities. What are your goals as a rodeo announcer?
“This one always makes me laugh, because people oftentimes will ask me, ‘Do you want to announce the NFR?’ and my answer is always, ‘Of course, I do, but so does every announcer.’ The NFR would be amazing, but I have plenty of events that I would love to cross off my bucket list before ever thinking about the yellow bucking chutes for 10 nights in a row in Las Vegas, Nevada.”
“At the top of my bucket list is a rodeo I attended every year as I grew up, the PRCA Rodeo in Mobridge, South Dakota. Two other close contenders are Deadwood, South Dakota PRCA Rodeo, and the Badland Circuit Finals.”
In all careers there are memorable experiences that shape who we are. Please share one of these memorable times with us.
“I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to grow my announcing career more and more every year. In 2023, I announced over 30 events, 5 finals, and 2 PBR events along with playing a short role in a movie as a rodeo announcer. Although I put a ton of miles on and announced in front of some really big and electric crowds, my most memorable moment was presenting a beautiful buckle to my Uncle Doug Maher for his years of service for the Timber Lake Rodeo Association. I presented the buckle to him during the Days of 1910 in Timber Lake in front of the hometown crowd. To some people this memory might seem small, but to me it meant the world.”
To roundup up the interview, what is your favorite quote to live by and why?
“A favorite quote I live by every single day was given to me by a multiple-time NFR announcer, Roger Mooney. I had the opportunity to work with Roger at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota at the Cinch World’s toughest event in front of 20,000 people. He simply told me, ‘Brick by brick, you are not going to get to the top overnight, it’s going to take time. You are not going to announce the best rodeos in the world right away. You need to continue to add bricks every single year and continue to build and grow.’ To get advice like that from one of the best announcers in the game is something that I truly will never forget. “BRICK BY BRICK.”