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Enjoy Magazine

Boots, Chaps Cowboy Hats

04/01/2013 03:24PM ● By Enjoy Magazine
CrAsh Cooper A little bit of education: There are bull riders and there are bullfighters. One rides the bull, competing with other cowboys in the arena for prize money and acclaim. The other distracts the bull while the cowboy gets to safety at the end of his ride. Bullfighters often dress like clowns and entertain the crowd with their antics as they stand between the bull and the cowboy. Then there are rodeo clowns, whose primary job is to entertain the crowds and the cowboys between events, often popping out of a barrel in the middle of the arena. All are essential elements for an outstanding rodeo experience.

Among rodeo clowns, none receives higher acclaim than Ash Cooper, known as CrAsh when he performs. Cooper will again delight crowds throughout this year’s Redding Rodeo that celebrates its 65th year May 15-17. Cooper returns to what Redding Rodeo Director Bennett Gooch dubs one of the most enthusiastic rodeo crowds in the country. When CrAsh brings his unique athleticism and tailor-made comedy to Redding, cowboys and audience alike respond with characteristic western whoops and hollers. Using spring-loaded stilts, he flips and bounces around the arena while joking with the audience.

Cooper always does his homework before a performance, according to Gooch, and draws the crowd in with his personal observations and wisecracks, adding local flavor. “He runs the barrel and entertains the folks, then comes out and walks around all day interacting with the crowds,” says Gooch.

Cooper takes his job and his craft seriously. He started with admittedly dubious success, but as an elite athlete who competed in hockey and rugby in his earlier years, he always works at perfecting his skills and his comedy routine. He knows rodeo, having grown up in a ranching family, watching an older brother compete as a saddle bronc rider and launching his own rodeo career initially as a bullfighter. He graduated to rodeo clown when he saw a need and volunteered to fill the position. Unlike many rodeo clowns who choose the role when they can no longer physically do the job of bullfighter, Cooper incorporates his athletic skill with his comedy routines. “I just like to be around people who are having a good time,” Cooper says. “I get as much enjoyment out of their reaction as they do in my performance.”

CrAsh brings an energy to the arena that defines the whole of his life. A past many-time Canadian champion rodeo clown, Cooper lives in Saskatchewan, Canada, but performs primarily in the United States.

Then there is his art. Cooper studied fine arts in college, but is mostly self-taught as a western artist and an illustrator for Leanin’ Tree greeting cards. He enjoys showing his work at rodeos where he can interact with his audience on a different level. But, that’s not all. Cooper has become a well-known celebrity in Canada as a host of Cowboy Country Television, where the motto is “Real Ranches, Real Cowboys, Real life.” Ash (CrAsh) Cooper epitomizes that sentiment.

Mary Walker Mary Walker, world champion barrel racer, will compete at the Redding Rodeo before joining the rest of the top 10-ranked barrel racers in the Champions Challenge on Saturday. She’s an overcomer, a champion who at age 53 came back from a crushing accident on her horse during a barrel race. The accident followed on the heels of the loss of her 21-year-old son in a car crash two months earlier. Both tragedies proved the mettle of the woman, the passion of the athlete and the determination that just over a year later saw her earn the gold buckle in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

Walker began training 8-year-old Perculatin (Latte) before her accident, then continued working him into a rodeo horse after her rehabilitation. The two began with small Texas rodeos before moving on to Cheyenne, Wyo., for Frontier Days. They won more than a dozen titles, with honors for both rider and horse. Latte was named the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association/American Quarter Horse Association’s Horse of the Year in 2012, while Walker earned the Ram Truck Top Gun Award and a new Ram truck for her top money win at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. She went into 2012 in third place in world standings and came out the world champion.

Walker comes to Redding this year for the first time. She says, “In 2013, I will hopefully defend my title. I want my story to encourage others who may be facing challenges or tragedy.”

Rodeo Grab your hats and boots — the 92nd Red Bluff Round-Up is coming to town.

Nearly 30,000 people descend upon Red Bluff each year to honor this Tehama County tradition, spurring the local economy like few other events can do. And for all of its 92 years, the Round-Up has been powered entirely by volunteers.

The Round-Up is a long-held family tradition for many folks. Some who walk through the gates with their grandchildren recall having been wide-eyed toddlers watching the bulls and broncs with their own grandparents. Even some members of the board of directors are following in the footsteps of their parents or grandparents.

The first Round-Up was created by the Northern California Round-Up Association, and was reorganized in 1926 by the Red Bluff Round-Up Association — back when traveling advertising man “Montana Red” would spread the word, drawing more than 10,000 spectators to the Round-Up. For the next four decades, a publicity caravan of 50 cars wound its way through the North State, using a megaphone to let people know the Round-Up was coming to town.

Today’s advertising techniques are a little more high-tech, but the Round-Up wouldn’t lure all of these spectators or volunteers if it weren’t a top-notch production. The major Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo always secures top stock contractors and world-class contestants. In addition to prime rodeo action, the Round-Up is celebrated throughout Red Bluff with a number of family-friendly events, including a chili cook-off, live entertainment, pony rides, a car show, cowboy poetry, a pancake breakfast, a parade and more. A Saturday night dance with country singer Neal McCoy is planned April 20.

Tickets and information: Red Bluff Round-Up • April 17-21

Redding Rodeo Highlights the western way of life that is still very much a part of North State culture and traditions. The annual event, one of 10 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Silver Tour, draws big names in the industry to compete for high-dollar awards. This year, the Redding Rodeo committee has planned a family-friendly atmosphere that begins and ends earlier on Wednesday and Thursday, May 15 and 16. Friday, May 17 wraps up the three days of Redding Rodeo competition, with an extra day of rodeo for the first-ever Champions Challenge on Saturday. “This year we will be presenting four days of the best rodeo action that Redding has ever seen. Along with our friends the Asphalt Cowboys, the week-long activities include karaoke, steak feed, bank robbery, golf tournament, street dance and four days of rodeo,” says Redding Rodeo spokesman Rick Williams.

Champions Challenge—Special Event Redding will launch the inaugural Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Champions Challenge rodeo. Saturday, May 18, Redding Rodeo will cap rodeo week with one of four Champions Challenges slated around the country. The event draws the nation’s top 10 competitors along with the sport’s best livestock in each event, vying for $80,000 in prize money and top rank honors. All four challenges will be broadcast on Great American Country, beginning with the Redding event on July 7 at 2 pm and rebroadcast at 6 am July 13. •

Tickets and information: • Redding Rodeo Box office: 715 Auditorium Drive, Redding • (530) 241-8559