LYNDEN - You might not expect to see fat suits, fun noodles and footballs at the 10th annual Lynden Rodeo, but that's the full package from PRCA Rodeo Clown of the Year JJ Harrison.
Harrison, 39, will be one of the clowns at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event on Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 12-13.
It marks the first time the Lynden Rodeo and the Northwest Washington Fair will be held together. In previous years, the rodeo was held the weekend after the fair concluded.
The fair kicks off Monday, Aug. 11, with two demolition derby events headlining the day's entertainment. The rodeo follows the next two days, and then the fair features a string of music concerts - Gary Allan on Aug.14, Huey Lewis and the News on Aug. 15, and Collective Soul on closing night, Aug. 16.
Harrison, a PRCA card-carrying member since 2008, left an eight-year teaching career in Walla Walla's school district to chase his dream to be a performer. He boasts that he's "the only clown with a master's degree."
Originally from the small town of Okanogan, where rodeos play a big part in the community, Harrison has always enjoyed making other people laugh.
"I don't want anyone to walk in a room with me and be uncomfortable," he said.
Drawing on his sense of humor, Harrison incorporates an inflatable sumo-style suit into his act, complete with a two-piece bikini and a tutu. Though the suit is cumbersome, it doesn't keep him from riding horses or the more unusual horse-drawn ski ride.
A fan of impromptu comedy, Harrison doesn't script any of his rodeo performances. He tries to "follow" the horses in how to play out any situations.
"I don't know what's gonna happen and the crowd doesn't know what's gonna happen," Harrison explained. "It keeps things a little more fresh."
Harrison is especially known for what he calls the three F's: fat suits, fun noodles and footballs. The props make him especially popular with kids.
That connection with children helps him share the cowboy culture of the West with youths, an effort he believes is important for the future of rodeo.
"It's a way of life," he said, "so we gotta protect it."
People can see Harrison and the Lynden Rodeo at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday or Wednesday. For rodeo or concert tickets, or for other information about the fair, go to nwwa.fair.com.
ABOUT THE FAIR
The Northwest Washington Fair will be held Monday, Aug. 11, to Saturday, Aug. 16, at the Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center, 1775 Front St., Lynden.
Gates open 9 a.m. and close 10 p.m. Tickets at the gate are $12 adults, $10 seniors, $7 for youths 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and younger.
Advanced tickets are discounted $1 and available through Sunday, Aug. 10, at Haggen and Peoples Bank Whatcom County locations.
Carnival hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Rides are $3 and up, or $30 for an all-day ride wristband.
Advanced-sale all-day carnival passes are $23 at Whatcom County, Anacortes and Mount Vernon locations of Little Caesars Pizza through Aug. 10. Discounted passes also can be bought at nwwa.fair.com and at the fair office.