Celebrated rodeo clown joins Sanders, Hilton as award-winners working rodeo
ESTES PARK, Colo. – Justin Rumford is just naturally funny, and that’s a good thing.
He’s a comedian by nature, something he picked up years ago on his family’s Kansas ranch. Now he is the preeminent funnyman in professional rodeo, having been named the Clown of the Year five times in the past six years.
Rumford will lend his talents and his comedic poetry to Rooftop Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 5-Tuesday, July 10, at Granny May Arena inside the Estes Park Fairgrounds.
“We’re bringing Justin back because he’s the fans’ favorite every time he’s here,” said Mark Purdy, chairman of Estes Park Western Heritage Inc., a group of volunteers that works with the town of Estes Park to produce the annual rodeo. “He’s funny, engaging and makes our rodeo better just because he’s here.”
Deep in his roots, Rumford is a third-generation stock contractor. Rodeo is in his blood. He’s roped and bulldogged; he’s ridden broncs and fought bulls; he’s even driven the semi-tractor trailers that haul prized steads.
Now he’s living a dream.
“This clowning deal is the best thing I’ve ever had,” said Rumford, who lives Ponca City, Okla., with his wife, Ashley, and their triplets, Livi, Lola and Bandy. “It’s something in rodeo that I can have a lot of longevity in. There’s not just a ton of risk, and it’s something I enjoy so much.”
He isn’t the only award-winning piece of the Rooftop Rodeo equation. Of course, the rodeo is a winner, named six times as Rodeo of the Year, and this year will also feature two other 2017 honorees: Secretary of the Year Amanda Corley Sanders and Music Director of the Year Josh “Hambone” Hilton – Hilton is the first person to ever be recognized in that category.
“We’ve had Amanda and ‘Hambone’ working Rooftop for several years, and both are integral parts of what we do in producing this rodeo every year,” said Ben Vigil, president of Western Heritage. “They handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes things that must happen for a rodeo to be successful in this day and age, but they are relatively unseen. Still, none of our success happens without people like that on your team.”
Like Rumford, Sanders and Hilton were raised around rodeo. Each provides a laundry list of experiences to their duties, and the cowboys have rewarded them for it. While they tend to handle their tasks under the cover of darkness, Rumford happily welcomes his place in the spotlight.
“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.”
That’s all anybody in Estes Park wants.