Hadley Barrett, 20 year announcer at the Greeley Stampede and a rodeo icon
Hadley Barrett is an institution in the world of rodeo. His mellow voice and treasure trove of facts have created a legion of fans at his appearances as announcer at almost every major rodeo across the country for over 40 years.
Hadley was born and raised in North Platte, Neb., and has lived for many years south of Kersey, Colo., on 50 acres where he and his wife Lee, raise Golden Retrievers and train their small herd of Pinto horses.
Barrett started his career as a rodeo announcer in the early 1950’s when he would be asked to fill in for fellow rodeo competitor and announcer, Joe Cavanaugh. Hadley was riding bulls and bareback at the time and when Cavanaugh competed, Hadley would announce. The rodeo committee recognized Hadley’s talent even then and asked him to announce a full rodeo. Hadley remembers the experience, “Back then it wasn’t unusual for the announcer to compete and find someone to fill in for him while he was riding. I had a country band back then so I had some microphone experience and I guess that’s what the committee saw. My first full rodeo was in Arnold, Neb.”
From that early beginning in Arnold, Neb., Hadley Barrett’s career began a steady upward trend that culminated in his being inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1999. For most people, induction into a Hall of Fame marks the end of a career, but Hadley Barrett is still going strong. In 2008 Hadley was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and this year he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Hadley remembers his time as announcer at Frontier Days, “I announced there for 12 or 15 years. My last year was in 2001. I was there when Lane Frost got killed and they used my ‘voice over’ in the movie ‘Eight Seconds.'”
Remember that little country band that Hadley had back in the ’50s, well he continued to work with his band for over 30 years and was inducted into the Nebraska Country Music Hall of Fame. “I have some fond, fond memories of that time.” Hadley says, “I’ve met so many people that remember the band. We haven’t been active with the band since the mid 80’s and rarely do I go anywhere that some body doesn’t ask me about the band.”
Bradley’s achievements are far too numerous to list them all, but a few of the highlights include being the announcer for over 20 years at the Greeley Stampede, Madison Square Garden Announcer, seven time Canadian Rodeo Finals announcer, NFR Television announcer 1980-90 and 1994-2004, and five time PRCA Announcer of the Year.
When he is announcing, facts and tidbits of information seem to roll off of the tongue of Barrett like magic. “Experience and getting to know so many of these people are big assets, but a lot of it is in the preparation. There is absolutely tons of preparation for each rodeo.” Hadley says, “I guess you are a cross-section between a sports reporter, a master of ceremonies, and in some cases, a stand up comedian and entertainer.”
Barrett spends at least two hours on the day sheet preparing for each rodeo. His laptop contains his short hand notes, which have to be constantly updated, on 3,621 rodeo animals from stock contractors across the country. “Preparation is extremely important,” Hadley says, “but the biggest challenge is when the unexpected happens. That’s where you have to dig into your experience.”
About the only time when Hadley Barrett seemed at a momentary loss for words was when I asked him what induction into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame meant to him. He said, “It’s an honor to be recognized for what you do in the sport. For them [the PRCA] to go to that level is something that will be indelible in my mind forever. I’m so happy that it happened while I’m still alive so that I can enjoy it, respond, and recognize it. It meant a lot to my family and it meant an awful lot to me.”
Hadley Barrett has many fans across the country and when you talk to him you are going to hear the words family, friends, and fans used interchangeably quite a bit. “I don’t think the fans will ever know how important they are to the sport” Hadley says, “and I don’t think my fans will ever know how important they are to me.”
I hope that next year, when he returns to the Greeley Stampede, all of his friends and fans will let Hadley Barrett know how important he is to us.