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DUNCAN, Okla. â€“ Justin McKee is the most recognized voice in rodeo.
Over the past two decades, the Oklahoma announcer has called the action at some of the biggest events in the game. He also has been the television commentator for numerous rodeo-related events, which makes him recognizable to so many fans.
He returns to southern Oklahoma for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16-18 at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan.
â€śItâ€™s always very flattering and very exciting to me,â€ť said McKee, who announced the 2012 circuit finals in its inaugural year in Duncan. â€śItâ€™s one of the highlights of the year for me. I never take it for granted, and I just hope I can do justice to the contestants who qualified.â€ť
The finale features the top contestants from the 2014 season in the Prairie Circuit, the ProRodeo region made up of contestants and events primarily in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. In order to play the game, contestants had to finish the campaign among the top 12 on the money list.
Itâ€™s a championship that is cherished, especially in the Prairie Circuit â€“ the region is home to numerous world champions and qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s such an honor for McKee to be part of the three performances.
â€śI think I understand it so well because I am a competitor,â€ť said McKee, who has won numerous steer roping titles. â€śI think itâ€™s most of who I am as an announcer. I was fortunate enough to have experienced every event. I think itâ€™s important to know the event as a competitor.â€ť
That translates well into his post as the main voice of the rodeo, relaying the action to the fans. Heâ€™s quite comfortable with a microphone in his hand.
â€śI grew up in the livestock auction business, and Iâ€™ve always been mesmerized by the auctioneer,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™ve been behind the microphone since I was 3 years old. I started selling when I was 7. Iâ€™ve been competing in rodeo all my life. It was a pretty natural migration to the announcerâ€™s booth for me.â€ť
He announced rodeos while still a teenager, then started doing it for pay a short time later. He became a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1993 and worked his first circuit finals rodeo a year later. In 1995, he began working as an announcer for the Professional Bull Riders.
â€śI announced live events for seven years and did 10 years of TV for the PBR,â€ť McKee said. â€śAt first, it was quite an adjustment because there was no crowd to feed off of. I didnâ€™t realize how much I fed off the energy of a live crowd.â€ť
While television was his primary focus for a long time, McKee still competed and called rodeos. Heâ€™s been doing more of that while still doing some TV work throughout the year. He loves the opportunity to share his experiences with a crowd.
â€śAs far as my career, 80 percent or 90 percent of what Iâ€™ve got is because I take everything Iâ€™ve ever done in the arena with me,â€ť he said. â€śI think that helps me so much.â€ť
It helps the fans in Duncan, too.