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RODEO: Rumford built for Big Spring rodeo

May 24—BIG SPRING — Justin Rumford was a cowboy before he was born. It seems impossible to consider, but it was just a way of life the family from southern Kansas

His grandfather, Floyd, was a cowboy who passed his love for the Western way of life to his sons, Bronc and Tommy. Justin Rumford is a member of the family's third generation continuing his life in rodeo, albeit a little differently than he'd ever imagined.

Nowadays, he's one of the premier entertainers in ProRodeo, a 10-time PRCA Clown of the Year. All this came from a boy who could do, and would do, about anything involved with rodeo. He's driven truck, picked up broncs, flanked horses and bulls, competed in multiple events and organized the back pens at rodeos across North America.

No matter the tasks at hand, he was always an entertainer, the man who held court in any setting and exhumed uproarious laughter from his audience, typically full of cowboys and others who were behind the scenes. His audiences have grown, from a dozen or so to thousands who fill the stands. He'll be a major piece of the Big Spring Cowboy Reunion and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20-Saturday, June 22, at the Rodeo Bowl.

"That's the Quail Dobbs legacy here in Big Spring," said Dane Driver, a fourth generation of his family to be involved in the local event. "For years after Quail quit, the rodeo clowns didn't get asked to come to Big Spring; they were told they were coming to Big Spring because Quail said so. Out of respect to the time Quail spent in that arena, they all came.

"I'm looking forward to having Justin at our rodeo. This will be his first time in Big Spring, and I'm excited for the people here to see him in person. He's an entertainer."

Rumford is, and he takes full advantage of the gifts provided him, from his funny personality to his large build. He's a master at self-deprecation, but he's also a tremendous athlete who can bring out the giggles in anyone because of the things he can accomplish in his big frame.

"When I found out I was getting to work Big Spring, I was pretty excited," said Rumford, the father of triplets with his wife, Ashley. "Those are my people. I really enjoy a rodeo crowd."

Folks in Howard County understand the sport. Many are cowboys and cowgirls themselves, so they comprehend all the finite details that go into the competition and the overall entertainment of a rodeo. The community is celebrating the event's 90thyear this June.

"I really respect people that have stuck it out that long," Rumford said. "When you look at history, the wars, COVID, the good and the bad with money, the oil-field booms and busts, and you still have people that stick their necks out every year to make sure their community has a rodeo, that's some special stuff.

"No matter what, it's our job to put on a good show for those people."

That's an important factor in rodeo production. Yes, it's a competition, with hundreds of contestants showing up at the Rodeo Bowl with hopes of collecting the big money that's up for grabs. For those in the community, though, it's a couple of hours of high-quality, family-friendly entertainment.

Rumford will work closely with the local organizers, livestock producer Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, sound director Josh "Hambone" Hilton and announcer Anthony Lucia to put on the kind of show that fans will talk about well after the final bull is bucked.

"We have a chemistry that is very special," said Lucia, now in his third year as the rodeo's emcee. "We grew up together. Working with Justin is like being reunited with an old friend, and we have a ton of fun and great back and forth.

"We both have the same goal, and that's to make sure the audience has the absolute best time they possibly can have."