In the world of professional rodeo, Hadley Barrett is king. Barrett had a homecoming, of sorts, to Custer County this week where he served as co-announcer of the Bull Riding Classic at the Custer County Fair.
Barrett says it has been at least 30 years since he has been in Broken Bow, and he has been looking forward to returning. He holds a special fondness for this area, where his rodeo career began more than 40 years ago.
The North Platte native now resides in Colorado with his wife and 11-year-old adopted daughter. And at the young age of 81, Barrett shows no signs of slowing down. He remains on the road in his RV announcing rodeos an average of 180-200 days a year.
Barrett gained his experience with a microphone back in the 1960s as the front man for the popular country band, Hadley Barrett and the Westerners. The band traveled and played throughout the Midwest, and even had a stint in Las Vegas.
Barrett fondly remembers the band's very first live on-air performance, at KCNI radio in Broken Bow. Glen Stutzman was the program director at the time, Barrett recalls, and it was his idea to put the band on the air.
Years later Barrett and his family relocated near Greeley, Colo. As it happened, Stutzman also moved to Greeley and took a job at a local radio station there. After becoming aware that Barrett now lived in the same area, Stutzman contacted him and put the band on the air at that station too.
Barrett has always loved rodeo. So when the rodeo announcer got sick right before it was time to announce the Arnold rodeo one year, he called upon Barrett and his microphone skills. The rest, as they say, is history.
While his band continued to perform for the next several years, it was his rodeo announcing that made Barrett famous. He began to travel the pro rodeo circuit, and has announced at just about every major rodeo event in the country. He has announced the National Rodeo several times.
In 1999, Barrett was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo. Ten years later, in 2009, he was inducted into the Cheyenne, Wyoming Rodeo Hall of Fame as well as the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Okla. Barrett says there is a wide variety of western people in the Cowboy Hall of Fame, including some well known actors. He has also been named rodeo announcer of the year four times.
You may be wondering just how the Custer County Fair was able to get someone of Barrett's caliber to announce this year's rodeo. While Barrett admits he was excited to get to return to Broken Bow after so many years, it is really his admiration for his young counterpart - Travis Schauda - that sealed the deal.
"I'm excited to be coming back to Broken Bow," says Barrett. "But I'm pretty high on Travis Schauda."
Barrett says rodeo announcing is a tough business, and he believes Schauda has what it takes - talent and a good heart. Schauda was equally excited at the opportunity to share the announcer's booth with a living legend.
When not on the road working rodeos, Barrett stays busy raising white golden retrievers on his ranch. While he is away his wife and daughter run the dog breeding business. He also has three grown children and 10 grandchildren scattered throughout the country, and says thanks to his line of work he gets to see them all rather frequently.
Barrett says he tried clowning rodeo a couple of times, one of those right here in Broken Bow. He doesn't recall how he ever got talked into that, and says it was obviously not his thing as he didn't continue doing it.
Announcing, though, clearly is his thing. And everyone had an opportunity to hear why Monday evening at the Custer County Bull Riding Classic.