Many Lehi Round-up Rodeo fans are still mourning the passing of beloved Lecile Harris, the salty but hilarious rodeo clown who entertained rodeo goers for more than two decades. The daunting task of finding a replacement has taken almost a year. Still, the Lehi Round-Up Rodeo Committee has found who they believe is a great replacement, Justin (“Rumpshaker”) Rumford.
Rumford, whose arena moniker is “Rumpshaker,” has been named Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) “Clown of the Year” for the last nine years. He has also been honored with the PRCA Coors “Man in the Can” award in 2013, 2015, and 2018.
Rumford, who lives in Ponca City, Oklahoma, is a former 275 lb. linebacker who played football in high school. A native of Kansas, he grew up in a rodeo family and competed in junior high, high school and college rodeo. Rumford was a full-time steer wrestler until suffering a severe knee injury. While he recovered, he worked as an assistant rodeo coach at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. After his knee healed, Rumford helped with the Cody, Wyoming Night Rodeo for three seasons. He went on to be a livestock truck driver for North Platte’s stock contractor, Bennie Beutler, of Beutler and Son Rodeo.
“I tried my hand at clowning at bull-riding event,” Rumford said, “And it gave me a great check. Why the heck am I working so hard when I can get paid to have fun! So, I jumped ship for the clown life.”
In an interview by Sara Pelissero for USA Today, Rumford chatted about a profession that requires face-paint, baggy overalls and enough jokes to energize a stadium.
SP: “How would you describe your job?”
JR: “My title may be rodeo clown, but my job is to be an entertainer, keep the crowd going. You know. I’m not a bullfighter. I don’t mess with the bulls. The cowboy protection guys do that. That gets misconstrued a lot. I’m like the official fun-haver of the rodeo.”
SP: What makes a good rodeo clown?
JR: You have to be in touch with your audience. You can’t just stand there and be like, “Hey, did you hear the one about the guy who works at Wal-Mart? You have to use what you see on Facebook or Twitter, or movies. You know, so much of our audience is younger, and they know what’s happening. And even with music, you know, the one song we’ve been playing a lot is the “Selfie” song. You have to be in tune with your audience.
Rumford is known as the “Clown who tackled a drunk audience member.” While entertaining at the Range Days Rodeo in Rapid City, South Dakota, a man climbed into the ring, not once, but twice. The man evaded security, and it took “the clown” to tackle the intruder and pile drive him into the dirt. The audience cheered as the man was turned over to security.
Rumford is known for his jokes and banter with the announcer. He is also known for his cheerleading performances and daredevil routines on his mini motorcycle. Rumford also provides an oasis of safety for bullfighters as a “barrelman.”
In 2013, Rumford and his wife, Ashley, became parents of triplets, daughters, Livi and Lola, and a son, Bandy. “I have a 44-ft. trailer,” Rumford said, “and I can bring the whole family with me.”
Locals are excited for the return of the Lehi Round-up Rodeo this year. After a difficult 2020 for everybody, the rodeo will provide a pleasant respite from the pandemic and its associated stress and worry. Tickets for this year’s rodeo are available at www.lehirodeo.com.