Cinch entertainer wins three PRCA honors for 2022
LAS VEGAS – For most of his career, Cinch entertainer John Harrison has been one of the preeminent men in ProRodeo.
He is an award-winning comedian and a standout barrelman, working the National Finals Rodeo in that capacity for an eighth time. On Nov. 30, he added a new twist to his resume by joining an elite club: He was named the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year for the second time, the Coors Man in the Can for a fifth time and the PRCA Clown/Barrelman of the Year for the first time.
The last time an entertainer won all three awards in one year was 2011 when ProRodeo legend Keith Isley did so. It’s quite a feat, and it’s an honor Harrison will cherish along with his family, wife Carla, daughters Addison, Charlee and Billie, and son Caz.
“It is a dream come true,” said Harrison, 44, of Soper, Oklahoma. “I always went to the (PRCA) awards banquet, even before I was nominated. That was fuel for my fire. I saw Flint Rasmussen win all three, and I saw what a big deal that was.
“Keith Isley did the same thing. Those are the only two guys that had ever done that, so it had always been my goal. The last 11 years, the Clown of the Year was Justin Rumford, and I thought as long as he was going to do this, he was going to win that, so I just put it on the backburner.”
It didn’t stay there.
“Whenever they called my name, there was just shock,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I had to give “Big Bear” (Rumford) a hug, because while he was excited for me to win it, it’s pretty hard when you don’t win it. Him hugging me meant the world to me. He set the standard on that award that nobody’s going to be able to catch.”
It’s been a long time coming for Harrison, who was raised in a rodeo family and got the entertainment bug early. He was just 6 years old when he took his first trick-riding lessons, and he built on that. He could do magic with a rope and just about anything horseback, even working in Roman riding, which features one man standing astride two horses with all three working together in unison.
“When I was 18, Cotton Rosser had a Roman team he had bought at the National Finals Bucking Horse Sale, and I ended up buying them,” Harrison said. “Those were the horses that took me to the NFR.”
This year marks the 11th time the Oklahoma man has performed at the NFR. He was part of the opening act while doing tricks and stunts in 2001-02 and 2008. He returned as a barrelman in 2013, just a few years after making the transition from specialty act to a clown with acts.
“I realized pretty quickly that that not all rodeos hired acts, so I knew I had to do something different if I wanted to do this for a living,” he said.
It’s still paying off. As Isley continued to prove his dominance, one of the legend’s key acts was available to someone with trick-riding ability. Harrison acquired it, and it’s been the cornerstone that helped build an empire.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Harrison said. “I was standing next to Keith before they made the announcement, and he said, ‘Welcome to the Club.’ I would have never been on that stage if it wasn’t for Keith. For him to say that, I was beside myself. I held myself together as long as I could. I eventually went out in the hall and called my dad, and I just cried.”
He had good reason to do that. His life’s work has been on display for tens of thousands to see in person, and he had earned some of the biggest honors the PRCA doles out each year.
While his acts are the backbone of his rise to fame, he also handles the job of being a full-fledged entertainer seriously. He is well known for his “walk and talk,” a fixture that showcases his sense of humor and ability to read a situation at the drop of a hat.
“I try to say I’m not scripted, and I really try to go off the cuff,” Harrison said. “I try to adapt to each announcer and adapt to each crowd. You don’t work the rodeo the same with Roger Mooney that you do with Randy Corley. You can’t, and to be able to adapt to that is important to what I do.”
Harrison’s versatility, athleticism and horsemanship are shrines to what makes him so popular, whether he’s working a rodeo in Davie, Florida, or Puyallup, Washington. His personality also sparkles, which is why he’s a Triple Crown winner.