We hope all our readers enjoy this story, but our subscribers help make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the County News Review by clicking here or calling 763-712-3544.
For a full schedule of Isanti Rodeo Jubilee Days events click here.
A rodeo announcer with international experience, along with many family ties to Isanti County, is excited to offer a play-by-play of this weekend’s Isanti Rodeo performances.
This year’s Isanti Rodeo performances, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on July 9 and July 10, will be announced by Garrett Yerigan, 26, from Pryor, Oklahoma.
“I did my first full rodeo behind the microphone when I was 12,” Yerigan said. “I was at my first rodeo when I was 2 weeks old. My mom and dad both competed in rodeo very heavily; my dad was a steer wrestler, my mom still competes in barrel racing a little bit. And about the time I was 6 or 7 years old, the announcers stand always drew my attention. At that time, I started announcing the ‘slack’ rodeo, which is the excess rodeo that we can’t fit into our two-hour performance. I would do that, whether it was the morning before a rodeo or the night after a rodeo performance, there were all different times. So I started doing that and started meeting other announcers and meeting other rodeo producers and stock contractors.
“The big break was when I was 12: There was a really good family friend that was a very well-known rodeo producer around where we lived in Oklahoma, and he had two rodeos in one weekend, and his main announcer went to his other rodeo, and then he came to me and said, ‘You think you’re ready?’ And I said, ‘Well, sometimes you don’t know until you try,’” Yerigan said.
And following that rodeo announcing performance in Butler, Missouri, where Yerigan admits he was a little nervous, his career started taking off.
“My dad would play the music for me at the rodeos while I was announcing, and it was very often that someone would walk up into the announcer stand and ask for the announcer and they would see him, think it was him, since he was the grown adult, and then walk up and say ‘Are you the announcer?’ And he would say ‘No, he is.’”
Yerigan said this happened for a while was he was younger, but it was great memories he shared with his dad while in the beginning stages of his career.
Yerigan’s father, Dale Yerigan, is a Cambridge High School alumnus and grew up just west of Isanti, near the headquarters for Yerigan Construction. He moved to Oklahoma around his 20s to pursue his rodeo career as a steer wrestler and won 11 world championships with the International Professional Rodeo Association. Yerigan’s grandparents, Dean and Mary Lou Yerigan, still live in Cambridge, his aunt Sandy Yerigan owns Springvale Campground, and his uncle Bruce Yerigan owns Yerigan Construction based in Isanti.
“It was truly awesome when (rodeo chair) Tom (Pagel) called that day and said, ‘Hey, you think you could pencil little ol’ Isanti, Minnesota, into your schedule,?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
This will be Yerigan’s first time announcing at the Isanti Rodeo and is honored to be following in the footsteps of longtime Isanti rodeo announcer, and his friend, Tim Fuller, who has since moved on from rodeo announcing.
“I have been to the Isanti Rodeo before, but I bet you it’s been 15 years or so since I’ve been, just because I haven’t been since my dad was rodeoing real hard. I think it was 2009 since the last year he competed, so it’s been at least that long since we were there,” Yerigan said. “Life schedules get busy, my schedule got busy and I just never got a chance to get back, but very, very excited to be fixing that and coming back with a microphone.”
Yerigan said he spent many summers on his grandparent’s farm in Cambridge, working with his uncle doing construction or hanging out with his aunt at the campground.
“The opportunity to come announce this rodeo is really like a homecoming. It’s reminiscent. To me, this one is special all on its own because there is so much of my dad’s side of the family there that has never gotten to hear me announce a rodeo, or friends like T.J. (Pagel), or other friends that I made over the summers hanging out at the campground. And now to get to bring it to them a little bit, an opportunity to see what I do, I couldn’t be any happier.”
Yerigan’s career has taken him all over the country and the world. On average, Yergian announces 40 events a year, totaling 130 rodeo performances, and is gone about 270 days a year.
“I have been blessed to go all over the world. I have spent months straight in Canada announcing rodeos and bull riding events. I have spent weeks straight in Australia announcing bull riding events. I’ve been all over the United States; pretty much coast to coast, border to border. I’ve done stuff in California to New Jersey and Maryland and New York to Minnesota to South Texas to Georgia,” Yerigan said. “It’s an incredible lifestyle. This is a lifestyle. There’s time it’s tough. I left June 16 and I will not see my house in Pryor again until Sept. 12. It’s long drives, airplane rides, napping and sleeping on planes, in airports. I have a live-in horse trailer that I carry with me — that’s my house on wheels — when I am driving from place to place. There’s the rough side of it, but at the end of the day, this is how I make a living and I truly enjoy it.”
Yergian is looking forward to getting back to Minnesota in the summer and came to stay with his grandparents on July 4. He is excited about spending the week in Isanti County.
“Rodeo is affording me the opportunities that I haven’t gotten to do in a long time or, like I said, go to Australia, Canada and all these incredible places, opportunities before I would have never gotten to do,” Yerigan said. “I meet incredible people; I see the most beautiful parts of our country.”
Yerigan has three goals he sets out as he begins to announce a rodeo: educate, entertain and create a fan.
“The big thing, educate: I want to take somebody that knows nothing about our sport and if I teach them one thing about it, that’s better than (when) they came. I want to entertain: We are a sport but we are very unique in that we are an entertainment sport. If somebody is reading this and has never been to a rodeo, here’s the big thing to notice and expect, we are the only sport that talks and plays music and entertains the whole time. We’re a high energy, entertainment sport. The third is create a fan: I want to everyone to come to the rodeo with expectations to have fun and let your hair down.”
Yerigan said it’s the people he meets and the places he gets to travel to that makes rodeo announcing such a great career.
“I have met some incredible people that have become truly lifelong friends,” Yergian said. “I also enjoy the people I work with. There’s a brotherhood there like nothing else, because at the end of the day they’re truly the only people who understand those all night drives and sleeping in airport. It’s your brothers that can get you through it.”
Following the Isanti Rodeo performances, Yergian will be heading to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to announce the world’s largest outdoor rodeo during Cheyenne Frontier Days, July 23 through Aug. 1.
“I promise you, I’m going to have to say a little prayer before that one, too, to help subside the nerves,” Yergian said. “But at the end of the day I think that was proof in the pudding that this was what God put me on Earth to do and put the ball in motion.”
Yergian said at this point in his life, he can’t imagine doing anything but being a rodeo announcer. But he said, if life changes, those plans can change as well.
“If you can stay relevant, if you can stay up on the trends, audiences and how to communicate with people, you can do this to the day you die,” Yerigan said.