Lucia takes right steps in Pecos

Rodeo announcer Anthony Lucia introduces the competitors of the night’s first roughstock event during the 2021 West of the Pecos Rodeo at the Buck Jackson Arena Wednesday evening in Pecos, Texas. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

PECOS It’s been four years since Anthony Lucia received the phone call that changed his life.

“I had just gone full bore into announcing late the summer before, and to get that telephone call to be the announcer of the West of the Pecos Rodeo was special, to say the least,” said Lucia, a competitor and specialty act before handling the role of rodeo emcee. “That’s one of the top 25 rodeos in the country.

“There is so much prestige that goes along with it. It’s one thing to be recognized and have accolades and be awarded on a national level, but then once you’re there and you get to experience it, you understand why. To be seen as worthy to announce that rodeo was a giant confident-boost for me.”

He will return for this year’s edition of the West of the Pecos Rodeo, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 26-Saturday, June 29, at Buck Jackson Arena. Lucia is excited about the opportunity to be the voice of the “World’s First Rodeo.” The folks in Pecos are just as enthusiastic to have Lucia, the 2023 PRCA Announcer of the Year.

“There are rodeos, then there are iconic rodeos that have been around for years and years, and none of them compares to the West of the Pecos Rodeo,” he said. “It gives me great pride knowing that the first rodeo was held in Texas, the first rodeo that gave away trophies. While there’s a debate about the longest-standing rodeo, Pecos is recognized as the first because they gave awards away, and they actually had an organized rodeo.”

The history continues into the 141st year, and Lucia stands as the platform for audiences to enjoy the legacy while also being part of the experience of modern-day rodeo. From Weatherford, Texas, Lucia was raised around rodeo, and he understands not only the sport’s origins in west Texas but also how it has blossomed over time.

It falls on the folks who take the most pride in their event.

“The people on the committee are really unbelievable in what they do for the community,” Lucia said. “They love the city of Pecos with all their hearts, and that’s what drives them to do what they do there and put on the kind of show they produce. They take care of the contestants, treating them above and beyond what anyone would expect.

“It’s because they care not only about their town but also the people that come to visit their town because of the rodeo. It’s a bigger deal than so many people realize.”

The folks who produce the rodeo work tirelessly behind the scenes well in advance of the four performances in late June. It’s a labor of love, evidenced by the fact that the committee is volunteer-based. It’s a thankless job, from gathering sponsorship support to hiring the right personnel to taking care of Buck Jackson Arena, one of the biggest in ProRodeo.

Since Lucia is horseback all four nights, he has a great deal of space to manage. He’ll tarry as far east as he can get with his wireless microphone still working.

“I love behind horseback; that’s my favorite place to be,” he said. “My horse definitely gets his workout for four days in a row. It’s a really big arena, but all the action takes place on one end: the timed-event chutes and the bucking chutes are right next to each other, so I’m pretty much in the upper third most of the time.

“Of course, my job is to make everyone feel like they’re part of the show. Last year I got into a little bit of a bind with a bull. My horse panicked, and the bull was chasing us. My horse started bucking, and I lost my right stirrup, so I just stepped off because the next jump was going to buck me off anyway, and the bull was still in the arena; he was 20 feet in front of me. My horse actually got me and continued to buck and just stared at the bull, like I was going to protect him. That is a memory I will never live down, but I will also never forget.”

It’s likely that the thousands of fans in attendance that evening have it locked into their recollections, too. Most that make their way to the stands understand what they see in the arena. They celebrate it in their own ways. They can get loud.

“That crowd loves world champions, probably more than any crowd I go in front of year to year,” Lucia said. “They know who the world champions are and who the top competitors are, and you can tell that every night when we introduce them to start the rodeo.

“The fans are so appreciative. A lot of the same people come every night, and for an announcer, it pushes you to get out of your comfort zone and try different things, finding different ways of explaining things so that it’s not the same old song and dance every night. We have a lot of repeat customers in Pecos. They’re there because they enjoy the competition.”

Rodeo is a lot like a dance: There’s a lot of action that happens over the two-hour shows, and somebody’s got to lead everyone else step for step. That’s Lucia’s job, and he puts his best foot forward in Pecos.