When the first bareback horse springs from the chute on July 13 at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center, missing will be the voice of the International Finals Youth Rodeo for the past 16 years.

Mark McGee, 47, a family man, and longtime rodeo announcer and Vo-Ag instructor, will be laid to rest today near Valliant. His services are scheduled for 10 a.m. this morning in the auditorium at Valliant High School and a man he tried to pattern himself after in the announcing booth, Ken Etchieson, has been asked by McGee’s wife Debra to speak during the service.


When the first bareback horse springs from the chute on July 13 at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center, missing will be the voice of the International Finals Youth Rodeo for the past 16 years.
Mark McGee, 47, a family man, and longtime rodeo announcer and Vo-Ag instructor, will be laid to rest today near Valliant. His services are scheduled for 10 a.m. this morning in the auditorium at Valliant High School and a man he tried to pattern himself after in the announcing booth, Ken Etchieson, has been asked by McGee’s wife Debra to speak during the service.
McGee was killed Wednesday evening as he was mowing grass with a lawn tractor at his home north of Valliant when he was struck by a pickup truck which went out of control and crashed him into him.
What I think stood out with Mark was both this positive attitude and his politeness. When Bryan Painter, from The Oklahoman called me on Thursday to get some quotes and some information, I told him just that. I also thought of Mark as a family man, because each year at the rodeo, when he first showed up, his wife, Debra, and his son, Colby, seemed always to be with him.
During the course of each year’s IFYR, Mark and I spoke most every day. He always was checking to see if there was anything I or other members of the media needed. He always was willing to help and he seemed like such a positive influence on kids which is what the IFYR is really all about.
Much of what I told Painter was echoed by Etchieson and Randy Gilbert later that day in conversations I had with them about the man who truly had become the “voice of the IFYR.”
Etchieson, who retired as general manager of the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center several years ago and is a longtime rodeo announcer himself, said he had known Mark since he was college at Oklahoma State University. “I use to announce rodeos at Valliant and Broken Bow,” he said. He related the tribute Mark had paid to him when Mark announced his initial International Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, several years after he began announcing the IFYR in Shawnee.
“He said he patterned his style of delivering after me,” Etchieson recalls. “The man was so talented,” he said.
“The fact that I had southeastern Oklahoma roots too, and a town this size, and I was at the Expo and he was at Shawnee High School and we had the Saturday night bull riding on New Year’s Eve,” he reflected. “Mark had a great way of motivating the people with his little deals,” he said of the young man, who always in the announcer’s booth early to begin a count down for the IFYR at least 20 minutes in advance of show time.
Etchieson thinks Mark had a unique way of managing the events in the arenas and keep them balanced. The IFYR always has run two arenas simultaneously and the past several years, beginning when Etchieson was still in charge at the Expo developed and went to a three arena setup to expedite the rodeo performances.
“Mark had the ability to keep the arenas synchronized without confusion.”
Randy Gilbert, of Tecumseh, first met Mark as the two began college at OSU around 30 years ago. He and Mark became good friends, as they graduated together with degrees in vocational agriculture. Mark began his teaching career in Shawnee, spent the first two years here, then returned to teach at Valliant where he was still a Vo-Ag teacher at the time of his death.
One of the things Gilbert remembers most about him is “when you saw Mark, you saw Debra and Colby (his son) with him.”
Gilbert’s daughter, Annie Jo, had spent a couple of days with Mark and Colby just a few weeks ago during the state FFA convention in Oklahoma City. Gilbert, his wife Suzanne, and Annie Jo will attend today’s funeral, he said.
Gilbert said that Mark was “well respected by his peers and his kids.” He called him a “true professional” and said with Mark “what you saw is what you got.”
Etchieson further said of Mark “he was comfortable with who he was. He was always well-dressed, he was a gentleman.”
Though this year’s rodeo will go on as scheduled, and it will be another great event, it will be missing “this voice of the IFYR.”