Clowning around

DAYTON – As volunteers worked in the rain Thursday morning to put the final touches on the Dayton Rodeo grounds for the 77th annual Dayton Championship Rodeo, some performers and organizers were in the Dayton Community Center introducing students and staff of Southeast Valley Elementary School to the event.

Keith Isley, of Goldston, North Carolina, is a rodeo clown. In bright red hat and baggy pants held up with red suspenders, his job in the ring is simple: Keep the irate bull from doing horrible things to the rider.

“Hopefully, we can get there before they’re completely out of time,” Isley said during the event.

Like many in the rodeo circuit, he got his start early. He began at age 14 in junior rodeos. His aspirations then were to eventually work as a rodeo clown.

“Be careful what you wish for,” he said.

Clowns are also called bullfighters, but Isley prefers “rodeo entertainer.”

He works the barrel, which means that he has something to jump into.

Broken bones are part of the job description.

“I have reached my quota,” he said. “It’s not the safest place to work.”

He also entertains the crowd. Isley can perform tricks with a rope and he’s pretty good with a bull whip.

Angie Doud, Southeast Valley’s physical education teacher, got to help demonstrate that in front of the crowd. She was drafted to hold a piece of paper at arms length while Isley attempted to cut it in half with the whip.

She lost her nerve after a few loud cracks.

“I was shaking so bad,” she said, regaining her composure.

Kindergarten student Nolan Fisher, 5, got to help with a quiet trick. He only had to stand still while Isley twirled a rope around him.

And then there’s the makeup; you can’t properly entertain without it.

Isley demonstrated the process on Nathan Graves, 8, a second-grader who wore a cowboy hat to school.

“My mom wanted me to dress up like a cowboy,” Graves said.

Isley started with a layer of foundation, then added color, which is sealed with a layer of talcum powder applied with a big poofy dust-raising sponge. The excess is then brushed off.

Graves planned on keeping his new look.

“Unless I take a shower,” he said.

He said it would be a nice surprise for his family.

Having the makeup kit out anyway, it was just as easy to do a second person.

Southeast Valley Principal Dan Grandfield stepped up the sponge.

“Now you guys know I have meetings this afternoon,” simply fell of deaf ears.

Another bullfighter, Dan Dyson, got to experience a few moments of confusion when he woke up in Dayton.

He lives in Dayton, Texas.

He answered questions.

No, the rider does not have to stay on the animal for a full class period – eight seconds is enough.

Jesse Green, president of the Dayton Rodeo Committee, said he holds Isley in high regard.

“I’m definitely excited for Keith being here,” Green said. “He’s the best clown out there.”

Green also began with youth and high school rodeo. His family raises bucking horses.

He said visitors to the rodeo this weekend will find a lot of action and plenty of professional performers. Those competing, he added, are among the best in the sport.

One of the rodeo’s top events, the Wild Horse Race, is held each evening and has a lot of entries this year, he said. So far, 10 teams have signed up.

Tickets for the rodeo can be purchased online at www.daytonrodeo.com. Online, tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children. At the gate, tickets are $18 for adults and $8 for children. Saturday night’s performance is free for children. There are also discount coupons printed in The Messenger that can be used at the gate.

Parking at the event is free and the Saturday night dance is also free.

Tonight’s performance, as well as the Saturday and Sunday shows, start at 7 p.m. The Sunday show is at 1:30 p.m. The annual Dayton Rodeo Parade is at 10 a.m. on Monday.