Clownin’ around: Award-winning rodeo clown chooses entertainment
July 2, 2016
What’s in a name
Justin “Rumpshaker” Rumford got his nickname when he was one of three Justins working on a ranch. He joked and said he went by “Rump,” since he had a big one, and once Wreckx-N-Effect released “Rumpshaker” in 1992, the nickname transformed.
After a jab about his jeans, Justin "Rumpshaker" Rumford had some questions for a crowd of 5,000 Tuesday night at the PRCA rodeo at the Greeley Stampede. The first was if his overalls made him look fat.
"Do I look like Kim Kardashian in a cowboy hat?" he then asked.
The crowd cheered and laughed. He knew they would. As a rodeo clown, he's there to entertain.
"When people come to the rodeo, we have to keep them feeling like they're being entertained," he said. "That's why our job is critical. It's to ensure everyone has a good time because the world we live in is a scary place."
Whether he turns that sizeable frame into a backflip while hosting a dance contest or hiding in the blue barrel that occasionally gets overturned by an angry bull, Rumford takes that job seriously.
"Every day I go to work, it's like, 'Wow, that's awesome,' " Rumford said. "I feel bad for everyone who has to go to an office every day."
Rumford's office is an arena. As a PRCA rodeo clown, his job is to pump up and make the crowd laugh — and distract an occasional bull. He's one of the best. He's a four-time PRCA rodeo clown of the year, and he's only been doing it for six years. He was working for a master's degree in business at Northwestern Oklahoma State, but he much preferred the stadium lights to the desktop computer. He grew up in the rodeo, as his grandfather and dad did. But Rumford didn't think clowning around in the dirt would be his full-time gig.
"I was always messing around and having fun, and they said I should be a clown," he said. "I always thought clowns were stupid."
But then he was pushed into the limelight. When a scheduled rodeo clown had a family emergency six years ago, rodeo officials asked Rumford to take over. He already knew how to read bulls, so he was able to jump right in. He loved it.
Now the job takes him on the road a majority of the year — 285 days last year alone. He joked his home in Ponca City, Okla., is only a vacation home — his trailer is the "bachelor pad."
But bachelor pads aren't equipped for triplets. Rumford and his wife, Ashley, travel with their 2 1/2-year-olds, Bandy, Livi and Lola, most of the time.
"It's normal to them," Rumford said. "In our world, it's normal."
The 35-year-old said it would have been a lot different if his wife didn't give up her job when he decided to become a rodeo clown. Now, it's the two of them working on the business and traveling as a family.
"It's hard to rodeo without her because she's such an integral part of the whole process," he said.
Ashley doesn't just help wrangle the triplets. She drives more, works with contracts and secures sponsors.
And when you get to go to work every day doing what you love, there is little downside, especially when family is close. Even when he is the bulls' target in his blue, padded barrel, there's nothing he'd rather do.
"I love bulls," Rumford said. "Bulls don't care if you're black or white or Chinese. They don't care if you're tall or fat or skinny. To a bull, every person is the same; the mean ones want to run you over. I just love that because they're not judgmental of anybody."