EAGLE, Colo. – Justin Rumford can’t remember the first time he was horseback; that happens when one grows up cowboy.
The Kansas-bred cowboy has done everything imaginable when it comes to rodeo. He was the third generation of his family’s stock contracting business, and there isn’t a task he can’t handle or hasn’t tried.
“I’ve been involved in rodeo my whole life,” said Rumford, the reigning five-time Clown of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “I’ve never done anything else, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I’ve always wanted to be successful. A (few) years ago when I started this venture, I knew if I really worked hard and tried really hard that I could get to the top in a hurry.
“This clowning deal is the best thing I’ve ever had. It’s something in rodeo that I can have a lot of longevity in. There’s not a ton of risk, and it’s something I enjoy so much.”
He will have that passion with him for the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 19-Saturday, July 22, at Johnette Phillips Arena on the Eagle County Fairgrounds.
“People want to laugh at each other more than they want to laugh at something,” he said. “When I’m in the arena, I’m saying the same stuff I’d say if I wasn’t clowning. It’s just me being me.”
That’s just Rumford’s personality shining through, and it’s been a big hit across the country.
“He is so well known, and I find him very entertaining,” said Hanna Albertson, chairwoman of the fair and rodeo’s advisory council. “I think Eagle County is going to enjoy having such a big name with our clown.
“He seems like the kind of person who is genuinely funny.”
He continues to be one of the most sought-after rodeo clowns in the game. But there are many reasons behind it.
“I have seven acts,” Rumford said. “At a lot of rodeos I work, there are lots of performances, so I like to change it up. I’m not a specialty act; I’m a clown act.
“I’m constantly trying to think of new stuff.”
Whether it’s “Fat Elvis” on a mini bike or the Rumford rendition of Spiderman, the acts are a big part of the entertainment value. But he’s the perfect all-around entertainer, a man who understands the timing that comes with rodeo.
It’s all part of making the production come across as seamless as possible. If there is any downtime in the competition, Rumford is on hand to engage the crowd. It’s a vital piece of the keeping the family-friendly entertainment part of each performance.
“I think my specialty is walking and talking and being in the arena,” he said. “I feel like I can connect with the crowd pretty good. Even when my microphone isn’t on, I’m still talking to fans. You can do a lot without saying a word.”
That’s an integral part of being a clown; sharing a particular move or a flashing glance in the right direction. As a clown with a bit of a bigger build, it is primary target of comedy is himself.
“People want to laugh at each other more than they want to laugh at something,” Rumford said. “When I’m in the arena, I’m saying the same stuff I’d say if I wasn’t clowning. It’s just me being me.”