Snake River Stampede: The journey of a rodeo announcer

The youngest to call the National Finals Rodeo had humble beginnings.

tphibbs@idahostatesman.comJuly 18, 2014 

NAMPA — Boyd Polhamus began announcing rodeos fresh out of college with nothing but an Isuzu pick-up, a motorcycle trailer and a tent. He traveled from rodeo grounds, setting up camp and using public showers believing it would pay off.

"That's what you do when you want to do something badly," Polhamus said. "If you want something badly enough, you'll stay in a camping tent at fairgrounds. I wanted to be a rodeo announcer. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I really don't want to go back to it."

He rode into the darkened Ford Idaho Center on Thursday cast in spotlight with blue–and-red-laced cowboy chaps for "Hometown Hero" night paying tribute to the United States armed forces. It marked the third night of his 21st season entertaining the Snake River Stampede as the center of attention.

Polhamus' life has always revolved around rodeos. He was the first three-time high school all-around champion in Wisconsin before competing collegiately in Texas, where he resides today - technically.

Married to his wife, Sandee, for 21 years, the couple own a ranch in Brenham, Texas, but he is hardly there. Polhamus performs roughly 170 times per year at 40 different venues across the country, traveling 260-280 days per year.

"Some people have to go to work everyday. If I won the lottery, I'd still do this for free," Polhamus said. "I wouldn't do it as often, I would go home, but I would still do the Snake River Stampede because I've never felt like it's been work. I love the sport as much as the guy who paid to watch it. If I was sitting next to you in the grandstands, I wouldn't be doing anything much different than I am now."

Known for his trademark horseback method, Polhamus is a wanted commodity. Along with the Stampede, which he first announced in 1994, he has voiced the National Western, Calgary Stampede and the Dodge City Round Up on his way to winning every announcing award in rodeo, including Announcer of the Year three times.

In 1990, at age 25, he became the youngest announcer ever selected to voice the National Finals Rodeo. He has since called the biggest event in the industry 23 of the past 24 years after being selected as an alternate five times.

Polhamus dedicates two-to-three hours per day researching contestants, livestock and promotions. Each chute has its own designated advertiser. He refers to his notebook with highlighted indents to quickly find tidbits on various cowboys, providing spectators with as much detail as possible in eight seconds.

"Over time you just know," Polhamus said. "The biggest thing you've got to know is what they've done lately. If they won something a week ago, you want to know that. So that's where the research comes in. But as far as who he is, his nickname - that's all stuff, once you learn it, it's like talking about a family member."

Polhamus walked his trusted partner, Limo, after the final bull ride of the evening to his 44-foot trailer with an eloquent wood-paneled interior stocked with a satellite television, air conditioning, sleeping arrangements and most importantly - running water.

"It's as nice as Willie Nelson drives. It just doesn't have the same smell," Polhamus laughed. "It sure beats the Isuzu."

Trevor Phibbs: 377-6424; Twitter: @IDS_Phibbs

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