Behind the scenes

DAYTON – The rodeo is Dayton’s biggest multimedia experience.

The sound and video engineers who present the show at the 76th annual Dayton National Championship Rodeo are vital to provide the level of entertainment the audience demands, according to rodeo announcer Boyd Polhamus.

“We’re part sports, part Wild West show,” Polhamus said.

Polhamus has to provide enough information so those less familiar with rodeo will know what’s going on, without just dumping a lot of information on the audience.

“We’re competing for people to come watch our event who don’t know our event like they know some other sports,” he said.

Polhamus has no trouble making himself heard, as his voice gets broadcast through two concert-quality speakers held 40 feet in the air.

“It’s a concert sound system. This is the kind of system Nashville artists sing with. That’s why we bought it,” said Benje Bendele, who handles all the audio and music for the rodeo. “People are going to hear every whisper.”

Bendele has to watch Polhamus closely and stay “one step ahead” of him, to improve the right kind of sound effects.

“As we go through the night, if a cowboy hits the ground, ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ is played. If the announcer makes a smart-aleck comment, I’m quick to react with a sound effect,” he said.

The announcer also benefits from the 10- by-12-foot giant screen at the east end of the arena. The screen rises out of a self-contained mobile unit operated by Lisa Bailey.

“The announcer relies on the board so much,” Bailey said. “He’s using that as a tool to sell his message to the audience.”

Bailey runs three different cameras in strategic places around the arena, drawing on 15 years of experience to know how to get the best shots.

“How you shoot a live event is way different than how you would shoot it for post-production, like for the 9 o’clock news,” she said. “It takes some strategic planning.

“The pressure is there’s thousands of independently moving parts. You have three cameras, you have three human beings, everything is connected by cables, there’s people, there’s animals, there’s dirt, there’s water. And like your cameras at home, these cameras can go on the fritz.”

This year, the live-feed cameras will also play on screens at the top of the hill. Replays of the previous night’s event will also be available.

Polhamus and Bendele travel together to rodeos all across the country.

Bendele said that this is one of the smaller rodeos he does, but also one of the top rodeos, because the community comes out and supports it so much.

“We don’t see that everywhere we go, where the community just comes together,” he said.

Both have been coming to Dayton for about nine years. Both also have worked at what Polhamus called the “Superbowl of rodeos,” the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

“I’ve been selected to announce it 19 times,” Polhamus said.

He added that the shows he announces in Houston are even bigger than Vegas, with 20 ticketed events and around 65,000 people at every event.

“I’m never moved by the number of people I’m talking to, it doesn’t matter if it’s 500 or 5,000 or 50,000. You still have to communicate the message of the player, the rules of the game, and do it in an entertaining way,” he said.

“All I care about is if the fans have fun. When they walk out I want them to look at their friend and say ‘That was fun, we’ve got to do that next year.'”

Dalton Krantz, 14, of Somers, has been having fun over the weekend. He competes in the Junior Bullriding division, and won that event Friday and Saturday.

“I’ve just wanted to do it since I was born. It seemed fun,” Krantz said.

He started when he was five in the “Mutton Busting” event, riding on sheep.

“I practice 3 times a week, on my barrel. I also practice on my horse, get her out and ride her around bareback,” he said.

With all that experience, does he still get nervous?

“Sometimes I do, but most times I don’t,” he said.

To stay on the animal, “You’ve got to try to keep your mind in the middle,” he said. “You watch the shoulders, and they tell you which way he’s going to go.”

If Krantz keeps it up he could end up like Danny Schlobohm, a professional bullrider from Lincoln, Neb.

Schlobohm started when he was 12, and has now been a professional rider for 10 years. He won the bullriding event at Dayton two years ago, he said.

“I’ve got a really good bull tonight,” said Schlobohm. “I rode him earlier this year, and he bucked me off right at the whistle. I hope this time it’s my turn.”

The Dayton Rodeo continues today with the Labor Day parade at 10 a.m. sharp, and rodeo events beginning at 1:30 p.m.