Harrison to shine in Gunnison

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GUNNISON, Colo. – John Harrison didn’t become a rodeo entertainer for the accolades, but that hasn’t stopped his colleagues from handing them out.

Harrison comes from a rodeo family and has been involved in the sport all his life. He’s been an entertainer longer than many in the game, first as a respected trick rider and now as a comedian and barrelman who is still up to his old tricks.

They will be put on display during this year’s Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo, set for Thursday, July 11-Saturday, July 13, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.

“We’ve had John here before, and he’s probably the top entertainer in rodeo right now,” said Brad Tutor, president of the volunteer Cattlemen’s Days committee, which produces the annual festival. “He’s funny. He’s talented. He’s really the right mix that we need for our rodeo. If you love to be entertained, he’s going to do it.”

And those accolades? They come in many forms, but most of them come through the annual vote of PRCA members, who select the top dogs at the annual awards banquet each December in conjunction with the National Finals Rodeo. Each of the last two years, Harrison has won the Triple Crown for rodeo entertainers: Comedy Act of the Year, Coors Man in the Can and Clown/Barrelman of the Year.

It was the third time for winning comedy act, the sixth time for the Coors award and the second time to be named the PRCA’s top clown. For someone who travels the country entertaining crowds, there is pure joy in his heart.

“If they’re having fun, you’re having fun,” Harrison said. “You feed off what they do.”

That sentiment is why Harrison is so good. He’s been selected to work the NFR nine out of the last 10 years. That’s a tip of the cap from the bull riders who make their livings on the backs of bucking bovines. They don’t care that he’s funny; they want someone they trust will be in the right spot at the right time.

Maybe it’s timing that comes naturally to Harrison, but he packs it into his nightly performances in a way that makes every show better. He can read situations and act accordingly. His personality shines in front of an audience, and he loves the banter that happens each night.

Harrison was just 6 years old when he took his first trick-riding lessons, but there was more to his talent. He could do anything with a rope and was a master on horseback, even working in Roman riding, which features one man standing astride two horses with all three working together in unison.

He has performed at the NFR 12 times in his lifetime. He was part of the opening act, doing tricks and stunts, in 2001-02 and again in 2008. He’s been in the barrel for most of the last decade.

He’s taken his riding and horsemanship talents and thrown them in to the comedy realm of what he does. Several years ago, he acquired a comedic trick-riding act from rodeo legend Keith Isley, who worked Cattlemen’s Days just three years ago. The act continues to be a fan-favorite, but Harrison has also developed a liberty act that is anything but traditional.

In fact, it’s so funny that it’s caught the attention of rodeo folks across the country. It falls in line with the way Harrison presents himself and his personality to those in attendance.

While his acts are the backbone, 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.

“To be able to adapt to that is important to what I do.”

It’s why folks in Gunnison have continued to ask for him to return.

“John is highly entertaining, and people remember that,” Tutor said. “He hasn’t been here since 2018, and I still have people talking to me about him. That’s why we wanted to bring him back.

“John is good for our rodeo, and he’s great for our community.”


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