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75th annual Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo kicks off this week

July 7, 2015 Updated: July 7, 2015 at 6:01 pm
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photo - (Logan RielyThe Gazette)
(Logan RielyThe Gazette) 

NOTE: Live video will beging shortly after 6:30

 

Grounds open at 4 p.m. Wednesday through July 10 and 10 a.m. July 11 for pre-rodeo activities including mutton bustin' tryouts, gold panning, pony rides, mechanical bull rides, climbing wall and more, rodeo at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday through July 11, 12:45 p.m. July 11, Norris-Penrose Event Center, 1045 Lower Gold Camp Road, $15.75-$43.75, half-price grandstand ages 12 and younger, free ages 2 and younger, $2 military discount; 884-1199, pikespeakorbust.org

Something else: Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Parade, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, downtown along Tejon Street between St. Vrain Street and Vermijo Avenue, free.

 

Lecile Harris took it as a strong sign when he landed in a hospital after a rodeo.

He'd been a bullfighter for more than 30 years until a bull took him down at age 52. He broke a pelvis, ankle and four ribs, tore a knee, separated a shoulder, suffered a brain concussion and bruised a bunch of vital organs.

"Somebody was trying to tell me something," the now 78-year-old says.

He promised a friend if he made it out of the hospital in one piece, he'd give up bullfighting for good and turn to comedy full time.

As it turned out, making the leap was a natural move.

"This is my 60th year in the rodeo business," he said. "Back then you had to fight bulls and do comedy also. If you didn't do comedy along with fighting bulls, you didn't work. Now it's a specialty. Your bullfighters just fight bulls and that's it and your comedy people just do comedy."

He's found great success in his career as a rodeo clown - the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association named him clown of the year four times and he was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2004.

"That's extremely special," he says. "It's always special when you're still alive and go in there."

Earlier this year he was inducted into the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Hall of Fame, and he's the clowning star at this year's 75th annual Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo.

The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Parade kicks off the multiday event downtown on Tuesday, and then the action moves to the Norris-Penrose Event Center Wednesday through July 11.

Harris works the duration of the rodeo, filling in the cracks and crevices, as he describes it, between the seven events, which include bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping and barrel racing.

"I feel like my job is the glue that glues all these little segments together with comedy, without spreading glue all over the whole rodeo," he said. "If there's a horse somebody can't get out on, I do a little piece of comedy in there to take their minds off that, so they're (the crowd) not just sitting and waiting."

About 30,000 people attend four performances of invitational championship rodeo featuring contestants from around the country.

The top two competitors in each event go head to head Saturday night, July 11, at the finals championship for a $15,000 cash prize.

"I learned to fight bulls well enough in two years to go to circuit finals," Harris said.

"I've been studying comedy for 60 years and it's so much harder. When a bull hits you in the arena you go out with a little glory. But when a piece of comedy goes sour, you'd just like to have a shovel and dig a hole. There's no glory to that."

JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM

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