Cinch announcer has handled rodeo’s challenges and come out on top
Andy Stewart uses a workmanlike approach to just about everything he does.
It comes from his raising in northern Louisiana, the son of two people who believed in hard work in order to survive. His mother worked for a food-distribution company handling personnel and finance, worked for the city of West Monroe and also served as a school bus driver. His dad was a successful building contractor who built custom homes and also owned the North America Team Roping Association.
If someone hands Andy Stewart a hammer, he can do some amazing things. If someone hands him a microphone, he’ll blow their socks off with what he can do. It’s led to a fantastic career, one he anticipates doing for years to come.
“At one time in my career, I had somebody hire me that really excited me a lot, booked quite a few rodeos with me, but because of some misunderstanding, he pulled all the rodeos from me,” said Stewart, a Cinch ProRodeo announcer from Collinston, Louisiana. “Being raised in church and knowing God had something for me and my life, I prayed a lot about it.
“Within a week, I had filled seven of the nine dates. That’s when I realized, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing.’ ”
After attending two semesters of college, he realized that wasn’t a good fit, so he entered the “real world” and went to work, much of which was done in the construction business.
“I ran a feed and tack store when Shelley and I first got married,” he said. “Then I switched my focus to rodeo announcing in the early 1990s; I would work construction between rodeos. I would go off and travel, doing construction for different companies.”
He also competed in team roping, which was gaining in participant popularity. He was a header because he wanted to get his money’s worth; if he paid the entry fee, he wanted to be assured the opportunity to throw his rope, and that sometimes doesn’t happen to heelers when their headers don’t catch.
“We spent most of our weekends hooked to a truck and trailer,” Stewart said. “I qualified for the USTRC Finals three times. My father and I were No. 6 champions in the state of Louisiana twice.”
That’s what lit the spark for roping and rodeo underneath the Louisiana cowboy, one he still has decades later.
“I really fell in love with the lifestyle, the people and the competition,” he said. “When my brother and I were little, we were pretending we were at the National Finals Rodeo, and I would imitate announcers or pretend we were at some big rodeo. My mother said, ‘You should try that. I dare you to try it; I think you’d be good at it.’
“I’ve always enjoyed making people feel good. I like to see people laugh. It was a natural fit to get behind a microphone and entertain people. To this day, I’m still very passionate about it. I love what I do. I love mingling with people and being able to entertain crowds and transfer my love of rodeo to the fans.”
Over his lifetime, he’s been the voice of Championship Bull Riding, The American, Cheyenne (Wyoming) Frontier Days and the National Finals Rodeo. He’s lent his voice to dozes of other events, from Lehi, Utah, to Jackson, Mississippi, and many places in between.
It comes with the territory of being one of the best in the business, a 12-time nominee for PRCA Announcer of the Year.
His mom was right to dare him, because he wasn’t about to back down. Stewart announced some high school rodeos in his early 20s, not really knowing what he was doing. He was – and still is – a student of the game. His skills progressed mightily when he met up with Scotty Lovelace, now the owner of Harper Morgan Rodeo Co.
“Scotty bought out an amateur rodeo company and was looking for an announcer,” Stewart said. “After a couple of phone calls, I worked for Scotty. He had a passion for production and putting on quality shows. He and I really grew up together. To this day, we still have the opportunity to work together.
“Stace Smith came along and started to use me, and then Pete Carr started to use me, and it all just grew from there. The more places I went, I picked up on things and met more people.”
Still, he was no overnight success. In fact, he’s thankful for that. To be able to grow slowly in the industry allowed him to work on his craft at the same time. Eventually, his skills pushed rodeo announcing to not only the forefront of his career but as his sole focus.
“That probably came in 2002 or 2003,” he said. “I’d worked the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo, and my schedule was building up. I realized I didn’t have time to do the jobs I had. In late 2004, early 2005, I realized this could be lucrative for me if I could stay busy.
“We were living in a mobile home with two kids and struggling to pay bills. I almost quit a couple of times, but God bless my wife; she told me not to quit. It started turning around that I was busy enough to provide for my family through rodeo.”
Now, he’s a grandfather twice over. He and Shelley’s son, Kash, has his own son, Krew; their daughter, Shaye, is the mother of another boy, Dutton. When Stewart isn’t on the rodeo trail, he’s likely sharing his love of rodeo, hunting and fishing with his grandbabies in some form or fashion.
“It’s very hard to leave now,” he said. “As a man, it makes me want to be a better person in all aspects of my life. I want my grandkids to be proud of who their grandfather is, to hold their heads high when somebody mentions my name.
“It also makes me not want to be on the road so much. I missed a lot with my children, because I was early in my career and needed every job to make ends meet. I don’t want that to be the case with my grandkids. I still want to be busy enough and relevant enough that I can bring a lot of pride to them.”
Much of that comes with his passion for rodeo. He knows its different than other professional sports, but the competitors and the animals are athletes just the same.
“When they’re performing in front of those people, I want that crowd to understand just how good they are,” Stewart said. “I want to brag on their accomplishments. That creates a connection between rodeo fans and the people that are competing and makes them want to watch even more.”
There will come a time when Stewart will wind down his career, focusing on the moments at home more than entertaining thousands of fans. By then, though, he will have earned his time with his wife of 30 years.
“I’ll quit when I don’t get that feeling of butterflies anymore,” he said. “It’s almost like a drug. That feeling you get to be in front of that many people drives me. When showtime comes and I turn that microphone on, that just goes away, and I do what I do.
“Shelley is my rock. When I was traveling, she had to stay home and make sure everything was taken care of. To this day, she still does. She had to sacrifice things she loves for me to be able to chase my dream. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without her.”