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Big acts part of 2020 Roundup

Ted Harbin
Special to The Globe

Deep down, Justin Rumford is a cowboy, and rodeo has been part of his life since the day he was born.

Through his years handling various duties for his family’s stock contracting firm to his time spent on the rodeo trail, his comedic nature has shined a spotlight on the game and his own personality. Now he has parlayed that into the perfect job.

He returns to Dodge City Roundup Rodeo for the second time in six years. As the reigning eight-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Clown of the Year, Rumford will be one of the featured pieces of the rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2, at Roundup Arena. Dodge City Xtreme Bulls is set for 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 28.

Rumford will be joined by trick rider Madison MacDonald, who has worked the National Finals Rodeo each of the past nine years. A Canadian by birth, she now lives in Stephenville, Texas, where she also teaches trick riding when she’s not performing across North America.

“We’re excited to have both of them coming to Dodge City,” said R.C. Trotter, president of the volunteer committee that produces the rodeo. “Both do a great job in the arena, plus, with Justin, it’ll be nice to have a local back.”

Rumford is a third-generation cowboy who was raised in Abbyville and started competing as a youngster. His grandfather, Floyd, founded Rumford Rodeo Co. His dad, Bronc, was an all-around champion who took over the stock contracting firm, and Justin joined in the family business.

In his lifetime, he’s done just about everything possible in the sport, but he’s found his calling dressed in baggy clothes and wearing greasepaint. It’s the perfect combination for a witty personality raised on rodeo.

“This clowning deal is the best thing I’ve ever had,” Rumford said. “It’s something in rodeo that I can have a lot of longevity in. There’s not a ton of risk, and it’s something I enjoy so much.”

It shows in and out of the arena, a place he knows like the back of his hand. He’s roped and wrestled, ridden bucking horses and fought bulls. He’s been a flankman and a truck driver, and he’s loved every minute of it.

“I’ve been involved in rodeo my whole life,” he said. “I’ve never done anything else, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I’ve always wanted to be successful. A (few) years ago when I started this venture, I knew if I really worked hard and tried really hard that I could get to the top in a hurry.”

He did. In just his second year as a full-time rodeo clown, he won the PRCA’s top award. He’s followed that the four years since, and he continues to be one of the most sought-after rodeo clowns in the game. But there are many reasons behind it.

It’s all part of making the production come across as seamless as possible. If there is any downtime in the competition, Rumford is on hand to engage the crowd. It’s a vital piece of the keeping the family-friendly entertainment part of each performance.

“I think my specialty is walking and talking and being in the arena,” he said. “I feel like I can connect with the crowd pretty good. Even when my microphone isn’t on, I’m still talking to fans. You can do a lot without saying a word.”

That’s an integral part of being a clown; sharing a particular move or a flashing glance in the right direction. As a clown with a bit of a bigger build, his primary target of comedy is himself.

“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.”