Meet the Member Eli Woodyard
story by Jet Toberer Second-generation team roper, Eli Woodyard, of small town Max Meadows, Virginia, has been roping since he was 8 years old, and […]
story by Kyle Eusitce
With his thick, North Carolina accent, Winston-Salem native Ben Bolton has mastered the art of public speaking. During the course of his nearly decade long stint as a JSRA announcer, the 55-year-old married father of two found a way to stay involved in rodeo after retiring from clowning and bull fighting. His announcing career, however, started with the SRA in 1985, when he was still a young bull fighter.
After graduating from Parkland High School, he modeled his life after his older brother Charles Bolton, Jr., who rode saddle broncs in the IPRA. “I liked everything about rodeo,” said Ben. “I started out at the JSRA in 1977 and worked at clowning and fighting bulls.”
After competing in the SRA and JSRA until 1984, he was finally offered an official position in 1985 and he’s never looked back. “I like to talk and I love the sport of rodeo,” explained Ben. “It gave me something to do in rodeo I could do for a long time.”
In 1996, Ben married his wife Tina and had two daughters, Hannah and Grace. For the next few years, he was at the helm of IPRA, MSRA and PCA rodeos, until in 2008, he took a more permanent position with the JSRA, a position that makes him swell with pride as he talks about the young competitors.
“I love the fact that it seems like a lot of them start off at the beginning of year barely able to ride,” said Ben. “But by the end of the year, they can ride fast and really appreciate the opportunities they are given. The JSRA is a well oiled organization and truly all about the kids.”
When Ben arrives at the arena, he diligently sets up the sound system, gets his micro-phone hooked up, prepares a playlist on his iPod for the end of the event, and much like homework, looks over the score sheet to make sure he can pronounce everyone’s name.
“We do have secretaries that make it pretty easy,” said Ben. “It changes so much and we have so many divisions, so I always try to check the standings. Then I put on some mood music until it’s time to rodeo and boogie on.”
Ben doesn’t travel as much as he used to; his parents are elderly and he wants to be close to them, as well as close to his grandson, who just turned five-years-old.
“God needs to be first, then family,” said Ben. “Rodeo comes in third. I announce 25 rodeos a year, but always want to be close to home.”
In his spare time, the retired school bus mechanic works part-time at the University of North Carolina of the Arts, attends Rosemont Baptist Church and volunteers at a nursing home, where he teaches a Bible study class.
“My wife and I go down to the nursing home every Thursday,” explained Ben. “A lot of them don’t have people that come and visit and love them where they are. When you do something to bless someone else, it’s a blessing for you.”
Ben applies his faith to everything he does, whether it’s rodeo or working.
“I think we owe everything to our God,” said Ben. “I struggle like most people, but I strive to do my best. I don’t want to just give a testimony, I want to live a testimony.”
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