This is a story I wrote as one of the previews for the Dayton (Iowa) Championship Rodeo, which took place over Labor Day weekend. Boyd Polhamus is working with Randy Corley in announcing the American Royal Rodeo in Kansas City, and in about a month, they will work together at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
DAYTON, Iowa – If it hasn’t already happened, Boyd Polhamus is quickly becoming the voice of ProRodeo.
He’s been selected to call the action at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 14 times, including the last 11. More importantly, he’s been named the announcer of the year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association each of the last three seasons. But for folks in central Iowa, he’s meant so much more than any award can represent.
“He’s certainly been instrumental in making our rodeo better,” said Jim Heckman, chairman of the committee that produces the Dayton Championship Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3-Sunday, Sept. 5, and 1:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 6. “He knows what timing’s all about. He understands what a production needs to look like, to help people keep coming back.
“I think the main thing we have with him is bringing his expertise to our rodeo. With him being the announcer of the year, he does the top rodeos. For us to bring that knowledge to town is one of the biggest things.”
Polhamus grew up in Wisconsin, rather distant from the rodeo-crazy Southwest. But a fire began to burn.
“I won a pony in a raffle when I was 4 years old,” he said. “From that point forward, it was game on.”
The game involved cowboys and cowgirls, bucking horses and nasty bulls. Polhamus lived it. He qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo in six events his junior year and went to college in Texas to chase his rodeo dreams. It was there that his connection to rodeo changed from contestant to announcer, urged a little bit by classmates and his coach.
He’s been a ProRodeo announcer for 25 years, earning his stripes at events all across the country. Besides the NFR, Polhamus has been the arena announcer for big rodeos in Omaha, Neb.; Houston; Denver; and Dodge City, Kan., just to name a few. Besides his PRCA honors, the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association has selected him as the announcer of the year three times.
And for the last four years, he’s made Dayton, Iowa, his Labor Day home, and that’s just fine.
“I think there are a plethora of things that are special about Dayton,” said Polhamus, of Brenham, Texas. “I love the way the fans sit on the hillside. That hillside is just amazing. It’s a steep hill, and people just stack on there.
“I think people should witness the atmosphere in Dayton. You can get out in the country on Labor Day weekend. You can come to the heartland. There’s going to be a lot of grass, a lot of soil under your feet. There will be dances and vendors and the smell of barbecue in the air. You’re not going to get that anywhere else. It’s not like a county fair; it’s better than one.”
Besides expertise, he carries a passion for rodeo. More, he adores the people involved in the sport, from the contestants to the personnel to the fans.
“The volunteers who make up the Dayton rodeo committee live and breathe that rodeo,” Polhamus said. “They are 100 percent invested. It’s something they live for. They’re not only friendly; not only heartland, but they epitomize what you think of when you think of people from the heartland.”
For Heckman and the others who work all year to prepare for the Labor Day weekend festivities, the words are nice. But the accolades aren’t why the rodeo committee has hired Polhamus to announce the event.
“From our end, one of the biggest things he does is his homework,” Heckman said. “He knows the contestants. He can fill in a lot of space – that time between the action – so that it seems flawless. If someone is injured, he can narrate the story and let the crowd know what’s going on.”
Polhamus isn’t the story, he’ll tell you; he’s the storyteller. He has learned the trait over the years, working with the best announcers in the business and developing his style. He’s told the stories of the greatest stars in ProRodeo, and he’s seen another generation take hold of its own legacy. He’s seen the triumph of world champions and the heartbreaking death of a friend in the biggest arena in rodeo.
“Boyd has seen so much and uses all that every time he announces,” Heckman said. “He adds a lot to our rodeo, and we appreciate it. I think the fans appreciate it, too.”