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Rodeo clown JJ Harrison has held the “Northwest Clown of the Year” title for the past five years and has worked Walla Walla’s PRCA Rodeo the past four years.
JJ Harrison grew up in Okanogan, Wash., where his love for the rodeo began. It wasn’t until high school when JJ Harrison decided to actually get involved in the events at the rodeo.
He took his passion to college with him and joined the rodeo team as a bull and bronco rider at Washington State University. ”I gradually realized that I was a wimp and I migrated to team roping.” Harrison said. “I had a lot of fun and success roping over the years, but it wasn’t a career I could have.”
Harrison really established himself in Walla Walla, but didn’t expect his move to further his career in rodeo. “I moved from Pullman to Walla Walla to follow a girl” Harrison said. “I lost the girl but kept the town.” Pat Beard of the Beard Rodeo Company was the first to recognize Harrison’s talents in Walla Walla, Wash., and hired him for a bull riding competition he put on in Vancouver, Wash.
Harrison taught science and social studies at a Walla Walla middle school for eight years. “I think I enjoyed that middle school humor almost more than the kids.” After a few years of balancing teaching and rodeo, Harrison was forced to choose between the two.
Though his love for the rodeo surpassed his passion for teaching, Harrison believes that his time in the classroom has influenced his witty and energetic act as a rodeo clown. “I’m a ball of energy that is quick witted and eager to find humor in every situation. I think it stems from natural ability and my experience in the classroom.”
What makes Harrison a good rodeo clown isn’t that scripted humor or set jokes most clowns use. It’s the off the cuff stuff and spur of the moment quick wit that are his best attributes. Ellensburg Rodeo has been on Harrison’s Dream List of Rodeos since he started and he is so excited to be something more than a spectator this year.
“I would say I’m just a ball of dancing energy that will be all over the arena in Ellensburg.” Harrison said. “I think comedy and comic relief are both a very important part of rodeo and its entertainment value, fans at this year’s Ellensburg Rodeo will hopefully agree! Come on out and check it out folks…you’ll lose 10 pounds just watchin’ me!”
Loyd Ketchum began his career at an early age. Growing up in a small rural town in eastern Montana, rodeo was a part of everyone’s life. His mother is a barrel racer, and while traveling with his mother he developed a love for horses and rodeo himself. While attending high school and college he participated in every event except bareback riding. It wasn’t until after college that he began his bullfighting career. He began by working amateur rodeos, being both the funny man and the bullfighter.
In 1987 Loyd got his PRCA card and started bullfighting with the professionals. In the late 80′s and early 90′s Wrangler Bullfighting became one of the most popular events at the rodeos. He not only participated in the bullfights, but he also worked as cowboy protection. One of Loyd’s greatest achievements in his career was winning the Wrangler Bullfights at the NFR in 1991. From 1992-96 he was chosen to be the bullfighter at the NFR. Loyd was also very involved with RAWHIDE (Rodeo Athletes on Wellness). RAWHIDE consisted of a team of rodeo champions promoting fitness, self-esteem, nutrition, and inspiring college athletes to make good choices.
During the 90′s Loyd established himself as one of the best bullfighters in the PRCA, which has generated enough work to keep him busy all year round. Not only working in the PRCA, he also worked many of the Bull Riders Only events that continued on to be the PBR.
Donnie Griggs started his career as a bull rider and 20 years old, found out he preferred being able to look the bulls in the eye rather than staring up at a charging set of horns after getting tossed through the air like a rag doll. He said, “When you’ve ridden them before you kind of understand where the guy’s at and what’s happening. It kind of comes natural reading the situation, and that way I can put myself there at the right time.”
Griggs takes his job very seriously. “I take it personally (when a cowboy gets injured),” he said. “Nobody’s harder on me than myself. I like to do my job the best I can. You want to be there early and stop the wreck before it happens. That’s the biggest part of our job.”
Griggs has sustained several injuries fighting bulls in his 13-year career including a couple of broken legs, several broken ribs and countless stitches. He said he’s never questioned getting back in the mix at first opportunity though.
“It’s kind of just a job,” he said. “I treat it like, ‘OK this is what I do,’ and then you just go do it, try to be in the best shape you can – that helps – and just go for it.”
Donnie Griggs grew up in Kalama, WA and now resides in Hermiston with his wife Tori Griggs, a barrel racer and Hermiston native.
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