Winona PA announcer Ray Felton approaches 1,000th game

Helen of Troy might be the face that launched a thousand ships, but Ray Felton of Winona is the voice that’s launched a thousand Winhawk games.

Felton will tell you this is all happenstance. In 1991, Felton was just attending a Winona swimming event, and the people in charge offered him a microphone.

“I went, yeah sure. He goes, we’ll it’s kind fo difficult, and I said well, give me a shot at it. A half hour later he comes over and says, ‘Why don’t you just keep on doing this?’ I liked it,” Felton said.

He announced swimming for around 12 years, and slowly but surely, the athletic department kept asking him to expand his role with more sports.

“Somebody asked me one time, are you nervous? I said kid, I’m always nervous before I go on that stage,” Felton said.

Of course, these days, he’s an ultimate pro on the job, but early on, he can remember being up in the press box for a football game, and making one mistake that he thought would signal the end.

“I remember the coaches were talking stuff down to the coaches on the sidelines,” Felton said. “I hear a coach helping with the offensive line say, it’s a reverse. So on the microphone, I just announced to everybody, oh, Owatonna is running a reverse. And immediately everybody in the booth says no, no! You can’t say that! I thought, what have I done?”

But for every minor mistake, there are memories that last a lifetime.

“One of my favorite memories of Ray is the 1999-2000 season,” girls basketball head coach Tim Gleason said. “It was the first year the girls basketball team won a Big 9 conference title. Ray said, if you guys win the conference title, I’ll shave my head.”

And Felton did, right on center court, just one of many examples of his passion for his community.

“When you watch an athlete grow, they start off their freshman year and they can’t take the outlet pass, or can’t hold on to the football. And all of a sudden, by their senior year, they become a force to be reckoned with,” Felton said.

Winona’s coaches say his passion and enthusiasm have always made him a part of the Winhawk family.

Said Gleason, “He’s just a friendly guy. He walks in the gym and he’s usually got a joke for you or a kind word.”

“Whenever I think of this facility, this gym, I can hear Ray saying my name, everybody’s name,” boys basketball head coach Kyle Martin said. “He’s a staple to this gym and the people in it.”

“If he’s gone for a game, he feels bad that he’s not there and somebody else has to do it, but that’s just his love of athletics,” football coach John Cassellius said.

At the end of this week, he’ll call his 1,000th Winhawk game. It’s something he never expected to happen, but he’s very glad it has.

“It’s been a very fulfilling experience,” Felton said. “I guess I feel that if people have enjoyed this about as half as much as I’ve enjoyed doing it, they’ve had a heck of a good time.”

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