GEORGE PRESCOTT (1921-2002)
Inducted in 1998
For four full decades, George Prescott, the “Voice of the Ellensburg Rodeo,” was one of the most talented and respected announcers on the Northwest and national rodeo circuit. His voice and performance demeanor exemplified the classic era of the “gentleman announcer” during the golden age of Northwest Rodeo.
George Prescott was born August 19, 1921, in Tacoma, to W. F. and Gladys (Bowen) Prescott. He was educated in Tacoma schools (graduating from Stadium High) yet spent considerable time on the nearby farms of his uncles and other family members and friends. It was there Prescott learned about horses, cattle, and calf and team roping competitions. He entered the Navy in 1938 but lost a leg in the line of duty on board the USS Hull; he was discharged from Navy in 1941 and returned home. Soon, while working as a newsman in Tacoma, he renewed his interest in roping and, subsequently, rodeo and rodeo announcing.
At the same time Prescott was honing his announcing skills, he became a successful competitor in timed rodeo event competitions. Although hindered by loss of his leg, he competed and won in calf roping, wild cow milking, and team roping contests across the Northwest. Prescott twice won buckles in Moses Lake, and in the Woodinville Rodeo. Ultimately focusing on team-roping, Prescott worked the circuit and on several occasions roped alongside the legendary Ike Rude. His announcing career began at a July 4 horse show in Sedrow Wooley when, he remembers, simply, that “Don Wood left the announcer’s box and handed me the microphone!” He turned professional and, by the time he accepted a job with the Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce and Ellensburg Rodeo in 1949, he was already a seasoned and successful rodeo announcer.
During the next two and a half decades Prescott combined a career in public relations with an active road schedule of rodeo announcing. He worked rodeos from southern California into British Columbia. In addition to Ellensburg and Pendleton, Prescott announced rodeos in Puyallup, Toppenish, Kennewick, Lebanon (OR), Omak, Cloverdale (BC), Spokane’s Diamond Spur Rodeo and dozens more venues. Prescott’s forte was a lively speaking style combined with audience education and the demeanor of the “gentleman announcer.” This was an age of rodeo announcer greats, such as Pete Logan, Mel Lambert, and Cy Taillon (who worked Ellensburg in ’49 and who Prescott especially admired). Prescott carried his weight among these legendary characters. He used his words judiciously, adding color and an educational component to his exacting descriptions of the events taking place in the rodeo arena. “As a roper myself, I could tell the audience about the loops, saddles, riggin’, competitor techniques, and the general rules of the game,” he remembers. Prescott also improved the show by introducing ‘animal ambulances’ (horse-drawn sleds) and educating the audiences about the humane treatment of rodeo animals. George Prescott’s stately Western voice evinced the dignity and traditions of the Ellensburg Rodeo.
While he worked for the Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce from 1950-56, Prescott announced the rodeo as a “volunteer”; when he took a new job in Seattle, he returned for sixteen consecutive seasons as a contracted announcer. His twenty-one year tenure has yet to be surpassed. Prescott’s memories of the 50s and 60s rodeos are fascinating and, often, amazing. Asked for one of his most vivid memories, Prescott answered “that would have to be Larry Mahan’s 1971 wreck on Paper Doll.” As Mahan was dragged around the arena (for what “seemed like ten minutes” according to one local), Prescott kept the shocked audience accurately apprised of the situation. He talked them back to a calmer state as Mahan was loaded into an ambulance and whisked out of the arena (and out of reach of a consecutive string of All-around titles); later he informed the audience of Mahan’s medical status. Somehow, he kept the show moving. “It was an unforgettable day,” Prescott remembers.
After leaving Ellensburg in 1956, Prescott served in many important city and state governmental posts while continuing his rodeo announcing career. His helped the city of Seattle promote the 1962 World’s Fair, and he served in state government positions and as chief administrative aide to Governor Albert Rosellini. In 1967, he opened his own advertising and public relations firm in Olympia. Meanwhile he continued to announce the Ellensburg (until ’72) and Puyallup rodeos; he later announced all the Main Grandstand nighttime venues at the Puyallup Fair. He retired completely in 1990 and alternated between his Arizona and his Olympic Peninsula homes.
On the wall of his Shelton home, George Prescott displayed the numerous prize buckles and symbols of a fifty-year career in rodeo. Alongside his team-roping buckles stand the Puyallup Fair’s award to its “Voice of the Grand Old Fair.” There are also records of his PRCA Gold Card Membership and his status as a Charter Member of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Posse. There is a commemorative rifle engraved to “Puyallup’s Champion Announcer.” The Ellensburg Rodeo Board conferred its highest accolade by dedicating a 1992 performance of the Ellensburg Rodeo to George Prescott. He was inducted into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1998.
In 2002, the ‘Voice of the Ellensburg Rodeo’ was silenced when George Prescott died in Olympia. His will requested his memorials go to the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame and that his ashes be spread along Naneum Creek in the northeastern corner of his beloved Kittitas Valley.