DICKINSON, N.D. – There are so many fascinating aspects of a rodeo.
Todd Pettigrew loves them all.
Pettigrew is a rodeo clown and entertainer from Sedalia, Missouri, and he will be one of the featured pieces to the Wild Rides Rodeo Dickinson, set for 2:30 pm. Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Stark County Fairgrounds in Dickinson.
“I just love the atmosphere of a rodeo … the people, the contestants, the audience, the committee,” he said. “It just suits my way of life. I believe this is what the good Lord put me on this Earth to do.”
He may be right. Pettigrew grew up around rodeo in central Missouri. His father was a team roper, and as a child, Pettigrew rode steers and junior bareback horses. Once he got into high school, he qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo as a bareback rider, finishing among the top 20 in the country.
“After that, I became a bullfighter, and I fought professionally in the PRCA for five or six years,” Pettigrew said. “In 2008, I was selected to work the Great Lakes Circuit Finals Rodeo.”
That’s the regional competition that features contestants and rodeos from most of the Midwest states; only the top 12 in each event in the region advance to the circuit finals, so his job was to keep everyone safe during the bull riding. It’s a task that relies on the bullfighters’ athleticism to keep anyone I n the arena out of harm’s way, including himself and the bull riders.
The transition, then, seemed natural to move on to clowning. He uses his athleticism a lot less, but he brings a new technique to the game: he utilizes his comedic prowess. It’s a vital part of any rodeo, which is an equal mix of fantastic competition and family-friendly entertainment.
“I like to make people laugh,” he said. “It gives me enjoyment to see people with a smile on their face. I try to play off the situation that happens in the arena. I try to make it come naturally.
“I’m definitely not a scripted guy.”
By not following a certain path, he allows the events of the performance come to him. That could be something from the competition or a play on words with the announcer. It might even include some of the goings-on in the crowd, which makes for a delightful night of comedy for everyone to enjoy.
The key, of course, is to make sure those that are watching the show are enjoying it. They’ll see some incredible athletic feats, from a fast steer wrestling run to a big ride in saddle bronc riding. Pettigrew’s job, then, is to be an accent point to it all and bring out everyone’s funny bone when the opportunities allow.
He looks at being a rodeo clown as his calling, and he’s probably right.