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  • Clown isn't kidding when he says his job is to entertain

  • CENTRAL POINT — To clarify, JJ Harrison doesn't take to rodeo arenas to distract from the main event.
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  • CENTRAL POINT — To clarify, JJ Harrison doesn't take to rodeo arenas to distract from the main event.
    A full-time rodeo clown of six years, he's there to fill the lulls in the show.
    "Anytime you work with live animals or small children, there's going to be a lull," the 39-year-old Harrison says. "My job is to make that lull nonexistent, make sure the crowd has always got something to watch, always something happening in the arena. It's not to distract."
    Harrison will fill the lulls again at the Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo, which opened Thursday in Central Point and continues today and Saturday. The event features bull and bronc riding, children's events such as mutton bustin', barrel racing and more.
    And in the moments where it gets a little quiet, Harrison will be there.
    "I'm like salt. A little bit of me makes everything better. Too much of me, you've got to throw it out," he says.
    Harrison taught school in Walla Walla, Wash., before becoming a full-time rodeo attraction. He served as the rodeo clown occasionally, including at the Central Point rodeo, until one of his former students challenged him to go full time.
    "(He said) 'Harrison, you're always telling us to find something you love to do, and make a career out of it. You're not doing that.'"
    "I thought, 'God dang, busted by a seventh-grader.' You know?"
    After determining he could make it work financially, he made the switch in 2008. Now an entertainer, Harrison says there is also a safety aspect to his role. He's usually the first on scene when something goes wrong.
    "I've done everything. From hold people down, hold their necks, hold their heads," he says. "I've distracted animals away from them."
    There are also additional staff whose job is to draw the bull away from a fallen rider. He's been injured in some attempts, but despite that, Harrison emphasizes his main role is as an entertainer.
    "When I'm doing it, it's something's gone wrong," he says. "There's an accident, there's a hangup, there's something wrong."
    Harrison has traveled across the U.S., been part of numerous rodeos and received accolades for his efforts. He's been named the Northwest Clown of the Year for the past five years and was 2012 national finalist for rodeo barrelman, clown and entertainer.
    "I want to do a good job every performance. I don't want to let up," he says.
    So when is it time to throw in the towel? Harrison says that won't happen until he feels he can't produce adequately. At that point, he'll hang it up, he says.
    "I'm going to do this job as long as I can do it well," he says. "I would say I've safely got three to five more years, and then if I can still do the job well, I'm going to continue to do it. But rodeo clowns certainly have a shelf life."
    Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.
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