TUCSON, Ariz. - The events at the rodeo can be extremely dangerous, but all the competitors from the smallest mutton busters to the professional bull riders count on the rodeo clowns to keep them safe.
"You're going in there with an animal that can kill you, so it's natural to have that fear," said Wacey Munsell, a Rodeo Clown who's worked the Tucson Rodeo for the past 11 years.
The rodeo clowns may be dressed for fun, but once the first bull bucks, it's all business:
"It's our job to distract the bull away from the cowboy," Munsell said. "When he makes his qualified ride or when he gets bucked off the bull, it's our job to run interference."
That interference is life saving for the cowboys, but it's not an easy gig. Munsell said they're constantly getting hurt, but the adrenaline rush is worth it.
"The exciting part is going out there with a 1500 pound bull and being able to control his movements and where he goes," Munsell said. He said most of the technique involves circling the bull and cutting him off from running striaght at the cowboys or other rodeo clowns.
Munsell is a third generation rodeo clown. He studied video of his father as a rodeo clown and went to a bullfighting school to learn the safest and best ways to manage bulls.
The rodeo clowns say aside from keeping competitors safe, entertaining the crowd is also a huge part of what they do. "It's basically how we're preserving tradition," Munsell said. "The colorful shirts and the baggy clothes and the makeup...it stems all from the old days."
Munsell said the Tucson Rodeo is one of his favorites and he hopes to come back here to work and to entertain for years to come.