Most of the hotel and motel rooms in the greater Prescott area are booked for the weekend as tourists from across Arizona and the nation have come to "Everybody's Hometown" to watch the World's Oldest Rodeo events at Prescott Rodeo Grounds this week.
But visitors and locals don't have to understand how the events are scored or much about cowboying to enjoy the festivities, according to rodeo announcer Randy Corley.
"Don't worry too much about how each one works, each event. Just get involved and have fun while you're there," advises Corley, who has come to announce Prescott rodeo events for 25 years.
And Corley's done such a swell job at merging his background in radio broadcasting with his passion for rodeos that Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall honored him at last night's rodeo with a proclamation praising his efforts and naming July 2 as Randy Corley 25th Anniversary Day.
The proclamation reads:
"Whereas, Randy is one of rodeo's best known personalities, being name PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) Announcer of the year 10 times; and whereas, originally a bareback riding and bull riding contestant, Corley started making radio commercials and eventually went on to announcing in 1980.
"Corley's unique perspective as both a past competitor and professional announcer brings unparalleled knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport of rodeo....Randy works over 200 rodeos a year, keeping newcomers entertained as well as amazing die-hard fans' and whereas, Corley's grace when announcing this sport makes it sound so easy, when he actually spends hours studying statistics on the athletes, animals and splits."
Corley told Prescott eNews he spends about three hours a day researching those stats so he has something to talk about while announcing. Rarely is this man speechless and he's not used to dead air while he's doing his job.
So, you could imagine his surprise last night when his microphone went dead as he started announcing in order to catch his attention to bring him into the arena to receive his proclamation honor and a shiny rodeo belt buckle from the Prescott Frontier Days Committee.
"Thank you, what a huge surprise," he said, beaming that ear-to-ear grin he's so well known for.
Corley travels to Prescott each year with his wife Michelle, leaving their home across the bay from Seattle to announce the World's Oldest Rodeo.
"I've been pretty fortunate to be in Prescott for 25 years," he said. "I've been announcing rodeos for about 32 years on the western half of the United States and much of Canada. I grew up riding horses and bulls on a ranch in Nebraska and came from Wyoming. But I look forward to coming back to Prescott every summer.
"I worked in radio for about eight years after graduating from the Ron Bailey School of Broadcast. The radio was fun but rodeo is my passion," he said. "Most of it is the friends you make along the way. Many people don't truly understand the riders, as they are just a little bashful.
"But they've become like family, as we travel the Turquoise Circle in Arizona and New Mexico and the national circuit. Often times, you bump into people you've met at other rodeos. A lot of the guys you see here tonight will be at another rodeo in the circuit tomorrow."
Corley said many of the riders hold other jobs totally unrelated to ranching but once they are in the arena, they all have something in common.
What's the fascination with rodeos for big city folks?
"I think one of the big points is so few people in the world know how to do those things. It's hard for somebody in Phoenix to understand it since most kids grow up playing football or other sports, not riding horses and bulls. It's quite a sport and you really don't have to understand it to enjoy it or be fascinated by it."
When asked about the challenges to announcing rodeo events, Corley said, "I can't think of a tough part of the job but the grand entry of the rodeo is probably the toughest. You have to get the names right or you might not be invited back again."
Another challenge is "it's been awfully hard on the family." But his wife is an event timer now and travels by his side and is always prepared to step in as needed.
As for the Corleys' greatest reward in traveling the rodeo circuit, "It's got to be the people you're around," Randy said. "They become like family and it's always fun to see them. If you can get the crowd involved, well, that's pretty special, too."