Siloam Springs Rodeo

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Siloam Springs By Graham Thomas Staff Writer gthomas@nwadg.com Jeff Lee learned plenty of lessons about rodeo at a young age growing up in Yell County. The son of parents who were heavily involved in the sport — his dad was a saddle bronc rider and his mom a barrel racer — Lee learned what a rodeo should look like, what it should sound like, what it should feel like and how it should be performed. "The most important part," he said, "was we need to honor people's money. Because, especially nowadays, there's so many things people can go do. They can go sit in the air conditioning. They can sit (and play) on their phone in the living room and be entertained. "When they come out here (to the rodeo) and pay money, there should be an entertainment aspect where those people leave here and say 'I'll come back.'" Rodeo is something Lee takes very seriously, and it's turned into his career. Lee, a Siloam Springs resident, is a professional rodeo announcer who travels across the country performing at rodeos big and small. But Lee won't have to travel very far for the next few weeks as he's set to announce the 60th annual Siloam Springs Rodeo this week and then will do the Rodeo of the Ozarks in Springdale later this month. It's his fifth year doing his hometown rodeo and his fourth in Springdale. For a guy that's traveled as far away as Alaska to announce a rodeo, being able to stay home is a nice change of pace. "Routinely I'm 10 to 12 hours from home when I perform," Lee said. "To be able to come home for a couple of weeks out of that time period is nice." Lee has been involved in rodeo all his life, but the last 10 years have seen him dive headfirst into the announcing profession after several years of producing rodeos. "I found that I could do announcing really well," he said. Lee said that he works anywhere between 35 to 40 rodeo events a year and stays pretty busy. After graduating from Arkansas Tech with a degree in agriculture business, Lee moved to Siloam Springs in 2006 to take a job with Simmons Foods in what he said was "probably one of the best-worst experiences of my life." "Simmons is a great company to work for," he said, "but I was working third shift, nobody spoke my language and there were 130 people working for me and another guy. I learned how to deal with people really quick." Lee worked for Simmons for only a couple of years, but he loved the area so much he decided to make it his home. He started producing rodeos and Professional Bull Rider events. He also landed a job at Superior in Siloam Springs doing fleet sales, which gave him the flexibility he needed to pursue announcing rodeo full time. When longtime Siloam Springs Rodeo announcer Doug Williams retired a few years ago, the Siloam Springs Riding Club struggled to find a replacement before realizing that they had a jewel in Lee right in their own backyard. "Doug Williams was our announcer for a long, long time and he retired," said Riding Club member Karen Davis. "We had a couple of guys that just weren't fitting right. Then we found Jeff. He was right here, actually. And it worked out really well for him and for us. He's been a big help to us. "He's the voice of our rodeo now." Lee's perspective was that in the entertainment industry, it's harder to be considered professional in your home town 'The voice of our rodeo' Graham Thomas/Herald-Leader Siloam Springs Rodeo announcer Jeff Lee and his horse and co-star Dusty will be in action this week at the 60th annual Siloam Springs Rodeo. What are you doing Thursday night? Got plans on Friday night? Need something fun to do on Saturday? The 60th annual Siloam Springs Rodeo can help in all three of those areas. If you like good, clean, wholesome family entertainment, well then this is the event for you. You will have fun. Your kids will have fun, and even the grandkids (if you have them) will have fun. I'm not a rodeo guy. It's not something I grew up or was raised with, but even I look forward to the rodeo coming back to town for its three-night performance. I remember the first Siloam Springs Rodeo I covered back in the summer of 2010. I wasn't thrilled about going out there. I'm a baseball, football, basketball kind of guy, and I trudged out there not knowing what to expect to see at this event. I had a ball. Sure it was hot, it was sticky, and I needed a little bug spray, but I genuinely had a great time and have most every year since, depending on whether or not a vacation was scheduled that week. You will be entertained and that's the goal of the Siloam Springs Riding Club, which hosts the event every year. Visiting with public address announcer Jeff Lee this past week, I'm more convinced than ever that our local riding club does a great job in preparing for this event. While Jeff and I were talking in his truck, several members of the riding club were busy fixing up the Rodeo Grounds arena in anticipation of this week's events. OK, so here are some highlights to look forward to this week. Thursday night is Kids Night, where all kids 12-and-under get in free with a paying adult. On Friday, a Special Kids Rodeo will be held from 10 a.m. to noon for children and adults with special needs. As a parent of a special needs child, I can't say enough about what a big deal it is for these kids to get this experience. On Saturday is the annual parade, starting at 4 p.m. at the Middle School and going into downtown Siloam Springs. The Rodeo Pageant will be Saturday night as well. All three nights, the Rodeo of the Ozarks Rounders will be performing as well. Advance tickets are still on sale today, June 13, for $8 at the following locations: Powell Feed, Generations Bank, Grand Savings Bank, Sassafras and Pioneer Pizza in Gentry. Ticket prices go up to $10 at the gate on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. So get your boots on, get your hat and come on out and enjoy a wonderful event that our community is lucky to have. You'll be glad you did. — Graham Thomas is the managing editor for the Herald- Leader. He can be reached at gthomas@nwadg.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author. Rodeo a great time for everybody Graham Thomas Timeout 60TH annuaL SiLoam SpRinGS RoDeo Thursday-Saturday Siloam Springs Rodeo Grounds H Key times, all nights H 7:30 p.m. — Mutton bustin' 7:45 p.m. —Kiddie Grand Entry followed by Grand Entry H Wednesday, June 13 H 8 p.m. — Rodeo Street Dance, American Legion Community Building H Friday, June 15 H 10 a.m. — Special Kids Rodeo H Saturday, June 16 H 4 p.m. — Rodeo Parade, starts at Siloam Springs Middle School See lee on Back Page "We feel really fortunate to have him here. He keeps the crowd in it. He's a good asset to the club and our rodeo." ~ Riding Club member Karen Davis

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