Veteran announcer Dale Haughian will be the voice of the Methow Valley Rodeo this week
By Don Nelson
People used to tell Dale Haughian that he had the perfect voice for a rodeo announcer. It turns out he also had the inclination to become one.
Haughian will announce the Methow Valley Memorial Day Rodeo this weekend for the fourth time, as part of his annual circuit of rodeos in the region. He’s been traveling by RV with his wife, Sharon — and lately with their dog, Benji — to rodeos for about 12 years in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
It’s familiar territory, in many ways. Haughian grew up on a cattle and sheep ranch in southeastern Montana, where his family also raised registered quarter horses. His father provided rodeo “rough stock” for nearby events, and as a youngster, Haughian worked the sorting pens. He eventually competed in rodeo, starting bareback riding at age 10 and saddle broncs at age 15 before moving on to bulls.
Haughian joined the U.S. Navy at age 20 and spent the next 22 years in service before his retirement. He was stationed on the west coast for the last 12 years of his Navy career. While in the Navy, he attended rodeos when he could, and kept track of rodeo standings. After his retirement, Haughian went to work for Probuild in Shelton, Washington, where he is still employed in shipping and receiving. It was then that he finally had the opportunity to pursue what he calls his “lifetime dream.”
“When I was growing up, everyone said I had the voice for it,” Haughian said. A conversation with the announcer at the Shelton Rodeo inspired Haughian to begin doing his own research. Haughian watched and listened to other announcers. “I didn’t want to imitate anyone,” he said.
Bring your own sound
One commitment he made early on was to buy his own sound equipment and system. While some rodeo arenas have adequate sound systems, many do not, he said. “It’s easier to get gigs if you can tell them you have a sound system,” he said. “It’s like a security blanket. When you bring your own system, they don’t have to worry.”
The sound system at the Winthrop Rodeo arena is good enough that he will use it this weekend, Haughian said.
The Haughians’ sound system includes about 3,000 songs stored on their laptop. Haughian plays music throughout rodeo events, varying the song choices to match up with what’s happening in the arena. The musical selections cover a wide variety of genres — except heavy metal and hard rock, Haughian said. Sharon is in charge of the musical selections. “She’s real good at it,” Haughian said.
Haughian occasionally does some announcing from the arena, but mostly he’s in a booth. “Bulls are big and heavy, and it hurts when they hit you,” he said.
Part of the preparation for any rodeo, Haughian, is to know the stock — some bulls and broncs develop reputations as being particularly ornery to ride — and to know the history of the competitors and their standings in rodeo rankings. “You can go on the show’s website to get the names of entrants ahead of time, and I’ll check their standings before the show” so his information on each contestant is current, Haughian said.
The background information helps Haughian avoid lulls in his announcing. Between his patter and the music, “there is very seldom dead air time with me.” He also is diligent about making sure the rodeo’s sponsors are identified during the show. “Without the sponsors, there is no rodeo,” he said.
There are about a half-dozen other announcers who he knows and communicates with. “We all help each other out, and trade information,” Haughian said.
Haughian has announced junior rodeos, ProWest and Northwest Pro Rodeo Association events, and bull riding competitions as part of his avocation. The Haughians travel to five to 10 events a year, and enjoy the road trips, Haughian said. It was sometimes a bit more stressful when he was first beginning. “We went at it hard and heavy, and were on the road too much,” he said. “We were tired and it was too hectic, and it was turning into a job.”
Their goal is always “to have some fun and enjoy the weekend,” Haughian said. He will keep on the circuit for “a little while longer,” he said.
His advice for those aspiring to rodeo announcing: “Think about it … it’s not as easy as the guy in the booth makes it sound. You’re always multi-tasking up there. And develop your own style.”