WOODLAKE – A rider-less horse was led through the arena at the Pony Express Rodeo in Eagle Mountain, Utah on May 25. The horse should have saddled longtime rode announcer Chad Nicholson, who has been calling the rodeo from horseback since its inception. But tragedy struck less than a week before Nicholson was set to make his 24th appearance at the event.
Nicholson was killed while 4-wheeling in a jeep on Highway 245 near Badger on May 17. According to the California Highway Patrol, the crash happened at about 6:20 p.m. when Nicholson stopped to help someone who had driven off the road. When the tow rope on his jeep snapped, it caused the jeep to lurch off a 40-foot cliff, killing Nicholson in the process. He was 50 years old.
“He’d help you if he could,” said longtime friend John Wood of Woodlake, Calif. “He was just a good, all-around guy.”
The rider-less horse in Utah is just one of many tributes planned for Nicholson at rodeo grounds across the country. Funeral services for Nicholson, who spent his winters in Three Rivers, will be at 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 13 at the Three Rivers Lions Roping Arena, 42490 North Kaweah River Road, Three Rivers, Calif., 93271. Nicholson was a member of the Three Rivers Lions Club.
“He loved to volunteer with the club but his schedule made it difficult because he was always out of the area,” Wood said.
There will no doubt be some rodeo royalty at the funeral to pay their respects to one of the most prolific announces in the business. Nicholson announced rodeos all over the country, working more than 100 performances per year in pro rodeo and professional bull riding, since becoming a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) announced in 1993. A former US Marine, he is known for his smooth voice, powerful delivery, and his signature American Flag tribute, “If Old Glory could speak”. Nicholson announced at PRCA rodeos in 39 states across the country. Nicholson announced the Woodlake Rodeo off and on for about eight years from until 2015.
Outside of professional rodeo, Nicholson voiced over radio/TV commercials and various other projects worldwide. He is the voice of the talking dog and liner voice on the farmersonly.com TV commercial “riding date” and “fishing date” spots, which still air. He also announced at monster truck shows. In 2012, he was part of the production crew for the United States’ portion of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th Diamond Jubilee Celebration, All the Queen’s Horses, at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, with the Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls.
Nicholson also trained the next generation of rodeo announcers. In 2005, at the urging of his friend, Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame announcer Bob Tallman, Nicholson founded the Chad Nicholson Rodeo Announcer’s Training Seminar, held annually in Fort Worth, Texas. Now in its 14th year with over 130 students from the U.S., Canada, and Australia, it has become the top rodeo announcer’s school with many award-winning graduates.
Wood first met Nicholson around the year 2000, when he became chair of the Woodlake Lions Rodeo and the Lions Club hired Nicholson to announce that year’s rodeo. Wood, who has been a member of the Woodlake Lions since 1986, said he and Nicholson became good friends. Wood even introduced Nicholson to his wife, Jennifer Welch Nicholson, who is a rodeo legend in her own right. The Nicholsons operated the world famous Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls trick riding and roping, along with a board of directors to run the non-profit educational organization for young women.
“I know he liked to go for rides with Jennifer,” Wood said.
A Go Fund Me page, titled “Chad Nicholson Memorial,” has been set up to help with funeral costs for Nicholson. In less than two weeks, the page has already raised $13,500. “Chad left this world as he lived it, making everyone else around him laugh and trying to help someone else out of a jam,” the page reads. “Until we meet again, see that contagious smile, and hear that golden voice, ride on cowboy… we are blessed you created a lot of wonderful memories to fill the hole your unexpected passing has left in our hearts.”