KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Randy Corley arrives in Kansas City to work the final week of September, he will bring his family with him.
Corley is the American Royal Rodeo announcer, one of the top personalities in the sport. While he tackles his tasks on the West Bottoms, he will have the opportunity to work with his wife, Michelle Corley, and his daughter, Amanda Corley-Sanders. Yes, it’s a family affair, but that’s also a great way to describe rodeo itself.
“It is quite an honor for me to get to work with two of the greatest ladies in my life,” said Randy, an 11-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Announcer of the Year, who returns as the voice of Kansas City’s rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, inside Hale Arena at the American Royal Complex.
Michelle Corley will work as a timer, while Sanders is the rodeo’s secretary. It’s a detailed description of what makes the rodeo family so special.
“We were married on the phone for twenty-some years,” Michelle said, noting that as an announcer, her husband is on the rodeo trail most weeks throughout the year. “When both of our kids were raised, we decided to do this together.
“The first time I got in the truck with him, we weren’t even two hours from the house, and he looked at me and said, ‘I feel like I’ve got my best friend back.’ ”
Randy has four children: Amanda and Kassi from his first marriage to their mother, Diane, and Cole and Brittany with Michelle. Only Amanda has taken to the sport that’s been such a big part of their lives, but it’s not the only extension of the family tree that is the Corley home. Michelle is the daughter of ProRodeo Hall of Fame announcer Hadley Barrett, with whom Randy works numerous events per year.
“His two older girls are all over the country,” Michelle said, noting that Kassi is a teacher in Powell, Wyo. “Now we get the chance to see them more often, and I get to see my dad a lot more. Kansas City will be the first rodeo she’s secretaries that we’re both working with her. It’ll be a lot of fun.”
Just by the gypsy nature of the sport – traveling from town to town all across the country – the people involved in rodeo develop a tight, familial bond. It comes with the passion that is involved in the game and a strong Western heritage. It’s easy to see friends who rely on one another like brothers and sisters. It’s also one of the most attractive pieces of the pie for many who make their living on the rodeo trail.
“I think one thing that drew me to the sport from the very beginning is the family atmosphere,” said ProRodeo announcer Scott Grover, who has called the American Royal Invitational Youth Rodeo for the last seven years. “I can drive through any state in this country, and if I need something, it’s only a phone call away.
“Just because we’re not related by blood does not mean we’re not family. My closest friends don’t live close to me; they live thousands of miles away, but we share every aspect of our lives together.”
Grover, of Weston, Mo., is a newlywed and, like Randy Corley, travels from town to town, state to state with his bride, the former Becky McGee. She, too, comes from a strong rodeo family – her father, Bobby, was a bullfighter and clown, and her mom, Danelle, was a trick rider – so Becky knew what to expect.
“I was pretty much born into it,” said Becky, the 2003 Miss Rodeo Missouri who is now president of the Miss Rodeo Missouri Pageant. “When that’s all you’ve ever known when you grow up, it just seems to be a normal thing. As I’ve gotten older, I appreciate the camaraderie and the family aspect of it.”
By traveling with their wives, the announcers have developed a family business. Because of their lifelong experiences in rodeo, Michelle and Becky bring much more to the table than a typical spouse, and that aids in what both men do.
“She’s not the kind that’s just going to sit around, and she has made things so nice,” Randy said. “We have a database on my computer of over 6,000 head of horses and bulls, and we keep up with everything that’s going on. She does such an amount of work it’s unbelievable; she’s made my job much easier.”
That’s a big part of the Grover’s life. When they’re on the road, she provides all the detailed assistance he needs.
“She’s absolutely amazing, because she does everything from giving me directions to helping me with my stat work to helping me get my horse ready,” said Scott, who will announce the Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo for the sixth time in October. “She critiques every once and a while to keep me on the level and to help me improve.”
Beyond the work, there is a genuine love for rodeo, and they get to share it together.
“The people in rodeo have a really deep care for one another,” Michelle Corley said. “For the ones who don’t get to have their wife or husband with them, they have family in the rest of us. For me, I’m having a lot of fun.
“I get to be with my husband, my best friend that I missed for twenty-some years; plus I get to laugh and have a lot of fun.”