The green flag drops and fire-breathing monsters howl through Hardy Murphy Coliseum, kicking up dirt as they soar toward the rafters.
Gasoline and junk food stain the air as the oppressive growl of unhinged horsepower jolts through the audience’s veins.
Between the gravity defying jumps and raw power of the No Limits Monster Truck rally is the voice of Big Don Ellison, a former professional driver, continuing his dream from the booth.
At the rally, the trucks are the stars. But announcer Big Don aligns them with a red microphone in his hands.
Like the drivers juggling the shifter, the wheel and rear-wheel steering switch to turn the 12,000 pound behemoths going 40 miles-per-hour on a dime, Ellison, 51, organizes chaos from the booth.
“A lot of these venues I go to, they give me a script and a format, and I’m like ‘throw that stuff in the trash, I’m going to make it up as I go along,” Ellison said. “We’re not following no script. We’re here to have fun.”
Much to his bosses chagrin, the Texan in a backward’s “Big Don” hat goes off-script, using his instinct as a former racer and a current showman to keep the adrenaline pumping in the stands.
It’s a skill Ellison’s honed after announcing 135 shows a year for the past 15 years.
Don said in those 15 years he hasn’t worked a day.
“I have the coolest job on the planet,” Ellison said. “I’m the biggest fan here. I’m just trying to make sure everybody in the stands is having as much fun as I am.”
Big Ed Beckley, 67, the unconventional CEO of No Limits, who can still be seen jumping trucks on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, said Ellison injects legitimacy and passion to his shows.
“He’s like the Rodney Dangerfield of monster truck announcing,” Beckley said. “He doesn’t have a real booming voice, but he gets fired up. When Big Don’s excited, the crowd’s excited.”
Ellison can’t remember a time when he wasn’t involved in some form of motorsports.
Back when he was “Little Don,” a four-year-old Ellison raced dirt bikes. Ever since he’s been hooked on horsepower.
Racing was a family affair with Ellison’s dad working long shifts to keep his kids out on the track during weekends. Despite retiring from a career as a drag racer in 2008, Ellison keeps the family dream alive through announcing.
Ellison didn’t come to announcing with a degree in communications or public speaking. He came fresh off the track, literally.
After agreeing to an interview with a local newspaper on the drag strip, Ellison said a race promoter recognized his gift of gab and asked him to announce a few shows. Fifteen years later, he tours the country with his race family at No Limits.
“I was like, ‘Man, I’m a driver not an announcer,” Ellison said. “But I did it and next thing I know, I’m doing it for a living. Here we are.”
While his house is located in Canton, Texas, Ellison said the road is his home.
Though living out of hotel rooms in a different city every few nights might not seem like an ideal living situation, Ellison said his ‘racing family’ makes any city feel homely.
From the drivers to those working the gates, Ellison said the tight knit community at No Limits are more than coworkers.
“It is a family,” he said. “The racing family is a family. If a driver needs something they’ll take a part off of their own truck just so the other driver can go out and beat them. That’s the coolest thing about the racing community. It’s even more like that in the monster truck world.”
Ellison bridged the gap between his racing family and his actual family a few years ago, meeting his wife at a show. The two gearheads now tour the country together with their shared love of all things motorized.
As Ellison was in the booth announcing Saturday night, his wife was working the back gate at Hardy Murphy Coliseum.
And though he’s always surrounded by friends and family at shows, the Texas native said coming to Southern Oklahoma is special.
“Coming to Ardmore and Oklahoma, it’s friendly people and red dirt,” he said. “It’s just like home.”