Chad Nicholson, Three Rivers resident and famed rodeo announcer, dies in accident

Chad Nicholson didn’t announce a rodeo from the stand. He would be on horseback in the midst of the action. (Photo from the Chad Nicholson collection, 2015)


Thursday, June 13, 2019, 3-6 p.m.

Lions Roping Arena, 42490 North Kaweah River Dr., Three Rivers, Calif.

* * *

Chad Nicholson of Three Rivers died Friday, May 17, 2019, in Badger, Calif. He was 50.

Chad Nicholson (September 10, 1968 ~ May 17, 2019)

With his wife, Jennifer Welch Nicholson, Chad assisted in the operations of Riata Ranch International, based in Three Rivers on the historic Redstone Ranch since 2013. Chad was a well-known announcer on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit, having worked events throughout most of the U.S., as well as Canada and Australia. He also taught seminars on voice-delivery techniques and provided coaching.

Chad had been with friends at a remote ranch in Badger off Highway 245 in the foothills north of Three Rivers. One of the friends in attendance posted on Facebook a description of how events transpired that led to Chad’s untimely death:

On Friday afternoon, one of the men left the ranch in his Ford F250 truck only to return on foot to report his truck had slid off the road and was stuck. Others in the group went to assist and, at first, Chad stayed at the ranch house. But about 15 minutes later, Chad was in his Jeep and heading down the road.

“[Chad] had hooked his Jeep to the front end of the truck that was stuck (parallel parked, if you will) and wedged between two trees front and back,” the friend wrote. “The road is a cut-bank road with an upper bank and the lower bank, which was about 30 degrees of banking and so steep right off the road, probably 200 feet down. The road is only about 10 feet wide.

“Chad had set up behind the truck, and the guys ran tow straps up to a tree up bank so when Chad backed up, it would pull the nose of the truck away from the tree to drive it out. After Chad started to pull, putting a lot of pressure to move the F250, the strap broke and, like a tug-of-war release, it shot him backward and he only had like four feet to stop. The Jeep went over the bank backward and flipped once, partially ejecting Chad and rolling over him.”

According to the friend’s account, Chad died instantly.

A memorial service will be held at a date to be announced. A GoFundMe account has been set up to assist Chad’s wife, Jennifer, in continuing Riata Ranch and the Cowboy Girls trick-riding program as she navigates the loss of her husband of 14 years and trusted business partner.

Here is a biographical account of Chad that was written by John Elliott and published in The Kaweah Commonwealth on May 8, 2015. Chad was preparing to announce at the Woodlake Rodeo for the last time, something he had done each Mother’s Day weekend since 1998.

Chad Nicholson was raised in Carrollton, Texas, the part of the Lone Star State north of Dallas and Fort Worth that was sprawling unbridled during the oil boom of the 1980s. It was while he was attending high school there that a friend introduced him to rodeo.

“The only thing bigger in Texas than rodeo is football,” Chad said. “In Texas, football is like religion.”

In high school, Chad was active in FFA, was an Eagle Scout, and just assumed that one day he would be an ag teacher. He attended Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas.

From 1983 to 1991, Chad rode bareback broncs on the rodeo circuit. He was also a team roper from 1988 to 1992 so he’s no stranger to the sport or the profession. Also during these years, from July 1989 to December 1993, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

During his college years, Chad worked in radio, attended an announcer school, and interned with Rick Perry, future governor of Texas who was then the head of the state Department of Agriculture. For a time, Chad thought he might pursue a career in politics.

(From the Chad Nicholson collection, 2015)

As fate would have it, a junior rodeo asked him to announce their event. Chad describes what happens next as “stumbling” into his true calling.

After college, Chad sold everything but his saddle, lived in an RV, and followed the rodeo circuit. In 1993, he landed in Redding, and in his spare time fished the pro bass events on Lake Shasta. But then he began to get more rodeo jobs.

In 1998, Chad Nicholson, the young Texan in his late 20s with a golden voice, announced his first Woodlake Rodeo. Except for some schedule conflicts in 2012 and 2013, he has been the voice of the Woodlake Rodeo for almost two decades.

But it was something that happened in 2003 that was life-changing for Chad. John Wood, longtime Woodlake Lions Rodeo chairman, asked Chad to pay a visit to Riata Ranch, then based outside of Exeter.

The Lions were thinking of inviting the Riata Ranch bunch back to Woodlake so Chad paid the famous Cowboy Girls a visit. It was during this visit that Chad met Jennifer Welch.

They came to Three Rivers on their first date and, five months later, Chad proposed to Jennifer under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. They were married in September 2005.

Today, Chad couldn’t be happier with his life’s path, which now includes straddling his busy career as rodeo announcer, seminar host, and voice-over personality while also helping Jennifer and the Riata Ranch Cowboys Girls, now settled in Three Rivers, to achieve their claim to international fame.

On August 8, Chad will emcee the induction ceremony at the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo. But this Mother’s Day, Chad will be announcing via horseback at the Woodlake Lions Rodeo.

Just listen for the voice.

4 thoughts on “Chad Nicholson, Three Rivers resident and famed rodeo announcer, dies in accident

  • May 24, 2019 at 12:14 am

    A beautiful story dear Sarah❤️The Hiltels…

  • May 24, 2019 at 8:13 am


  • May 24, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    Gone too soon. ❤️🌹💔

  • May 24, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Every time I heard him deliver this, I got goosebumps. He was a great friend to me…my family and to many! You’ll be forever missed, Chad. God bless Jennifer and his other loved ones, family and friends! ❤️


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