The author is a dairy farmer in Kansas and a former associate editor at Hoard’s Dairyman.
World Dairy Expo’s in-ring announcing has seen much change over the years. Initially, announcers were seated near the ring, where they could readily read and identify back tags of winning animals to the audience. Before computers, they would wait until the results were run over or up to them before they could announce the official placings.
Later, walkie-talkies were used to communicate information to the announcers when they moved to the elevated announcer’s stand above the showring entrance. Today, everything is populated electronically as cattle enter the ring and information is sent up to computers for the announcers.
Announcing itself has changed as well. Art Nesbitt was the renowned announcer of the early years of Expo. He did every breed show and also conducted interviews while the classes were in the ring through 1989. Long-time Expo volunteer Dave Selner also has experience announcing multiple shows, working for years with and after Nesbitt.
Today, the big shoes of Nesbitt and Selner have been filled by a unique announcer for each breed show. The current announcers bring a variety of experiences and backgrounds to the microphone, but perhaps none are more unique than International Guernsey Show breed announcer Robert DeBroux.
“In 2011, I was finishing my accounting degree and transitioning into my current job when one of the superintendents suddenly lost their show announcer on short notice,” DeBroux said. “Apparently, the superintendents were sitting in a room and nobody had any ideas, or there weren’t many ideas anyways. My wife, Kimberly, who is the Ayrshire superintendent, spoke up and said, ‘Well, let’s have Robert do it.’
“So, she asked me if I wanted to do it,” DeBroux continued. “Voice work is something I’ve enjoyed doing in my spare time. It’s just a hobby and an avocation. When she asked me, it sort of came off as a challenge because I am a city kid.”
DeBroux’s wife, Kimberly Moucha, has been involved in Expo for years and got him further involved by checking in animals for the Ayrshire Show a few years after he took the job announcing.
Speaking is a hobby
While DeBroux didn’t know a lot about dairy cattle, names, and terminology when he started, he was quite familiar with announcing names and voice work.
“Because I’ve done sports announcing, I like getting names right. I’m pretty good on pronunciations and things like that. That part I didn’t mind so much,” he explained. “As far as what to say, what to call things, and understanding how the event worked . . . that was tougher.”
Beyond announcing the Guernsey Show for Superintendent Steve Sievert, DeBroux also has a passion for singing and has had many opportunities to present the national anthem at big events. World Dairy Expo’s Supreme Champion drive has been one of those events, but he has also sang at many Little League games, Wisconsin athletic events, and local baseball games. Since 2016 (with the exception of just one year), he’s had the opportunity to annually sing the national anthem at a Milwaukee Brewers game.
A favorite Expo memory
For DeBroux, a number of Expo memories stick out, including getting to meet one of his radio idols, Orion Samuelson.
“One year, the show announcer was a longtime radio voice from Chicago. His name is Orion Samuelson,” DeBroux shared. “He was someone I grew up listening to. I got to stand up in the green room with him, and we talked for about an hour. He just told me stories about being on the radio, and I talked about my dad and I listening to him.”
While DeBroux’s background isn’t as heavily dairy related, another Expo announcer, Sarah Olson Schmidt, has plenty of experience in dairy. Many of her favorite Expo memories revolve around her passion for showing dairy cattle.
“I grew up on my family’s registered Holstein farm, Raylore Farm, just south of Hutchinson, Minn.,” Schmidt said. “We loved attending Expo to show, compete in the judging contest, and see friends from across North America. My brother and I even had the neat opportunity to work as barn staff for the World Classic Sales for a couple of years. Following college, I reported show results from Expo while working for Holstein World.”
It was her many ties in dairy that brought her to the announcing table, where she’s been volunteering for about 10 years.
“Growing up, I remember hearing the beautiful voice of Lisa Behnke as she announced with style the names of animals and their owners,” she said. “At the 2003 World Dairy Expo, a cow from Minnesota was named Grand Champion of the International Holstein Show — Pine-Shelter Cheyenne.
“After Cheyenne’s big win, our Minnesota Holstein Association family gathered to celebrate later that year. Before the party, my dad shared an idea: ‘Sarah, it would be so cool if you could announce like Lisa Behnke at this party and recognize Cheyenne and the Albert family.’ So, I did it for fun,” Schmidt continued. “I think it was from that point on friends would bring it up and say, ‘Oh, you should announce Expo someday,’ and I’d say, ‘Oh yeah, that’d be so fun. That’d be so cool.’ One of those friends happened to mention that to a member of the Expo staff at the time. Many years later when an opening came up for an announcer, they reached out to me.”
Since moving into the role, Schmidt said she enjoys learning and pronouncing the people and cow names. She is behind the microphone for the Milking Shorthorn Show and explained that she has leaned on her Minnesota Milking Shorthorn friends with any pronunciation questions.
She credits Expo staff and the team of volunteers for helping those on the microphones be as prepared as possible. Among other things, reviewing the show catalogs ahead of time and working with other volunteers to ensure placings are reported correctly are critical.
“An announcer is watching the show and double checking the placings to make sure everything is accurate,” Schmidt explained.
DeBroux follows a very similar plan of preparation, reviewing the catalog ahead of time and meeting with his breed superintendent. Above all, both announcers are committed to being as accurate as possible with their pronunciations. As former announcer Selner shared in the book, We Need a Show, the best tips for announcing include being accurate and being aware of people in the industry.
“While being AMPI vice president of public affairs doesn’t necessarily equal excellent announcer, a lot of my work for the dairy farmers of AMPI is telling their story with a lot of different audiences,” Schmidt detailed of her full-time job. “It’s communications, and at the core of communications is commitment. I just keep that mentality when it comes to announcing names. You want to make sure you’re as accurate of a reporter as possible.”
For both Schmidt and DeBroux, announcing breed shows at World Dairy Expo is an honor and something that is dear to their hearts.
“I enjoy working with the Expo staff and the Expo volunteers and seeing friends you maybe see just once a year,” Schmidt said. “We’re all there for the same reason, and that’s to enjoy good cows together and celebrate the dairy industry. It’s a fun week that we look forward to every year. It’s really quite special to be involved in Expo in this way.”
DeBroux echoed those thoughts.
“It’s been great to be part of an event like World Dairy Expo that’s international in scale with people coming from all over the world to see,” DeBroux explained. “It’s been an honor to get a chance to be a small part of that and contribute what I have to offer.”