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McCracken offering up laughs as rodeo clown

Published 6/8/2012 in Beef Empire Days

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

When Dale McCracken gets into his makeup — clown makeup, that is — he becomes a whole different person.

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Brad Nading/Telegram Gizmo McCracken entertains the crowd with a

Brad Nading/Telegram Gizmo McCracken entertains the crowd with a "chicken" rocket headed to the sun Thursday between events during the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo at the Finney County Fairgrounds Arena. McCracken is the specialty act for this year's rodeo.

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Brad Nading/Telegram Gizmo McCracken entertains the crowd with a song between competitors' runs in the team roping event Thursday at the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo at the Finney County Fairgrounds Arena.

Brad Nading/Telegram Gizmo McCracken entertains the crowd with a song between competitors' runs in the team roping event Thursday at the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo at the Finney County Fairgrounds Arena.

He entertains crowds at rodeos across the country with the variety of characters he portrays, and will be doing the same tonight and Saturday night at the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo at the Finney County Fairgrounds.

"I do a lot of character-type stuff all throughout the rodeo," McCracken said after performing a sound check Thursday afternoon, several hours before his performance at the BED rodeo.

Gizmo, as he is known on stage (or in this case, rodeo rink), is a nationally known rodeo clown with the PRCA. He said his most popular acts are the ambulance act and the newly added Swamp People act, which is fashioned after the reality TV series.

Not only will he entertain the crowd throughout the rodeo, but he is also the barrel man, or the guy in the barrel, who is used as a decoy for bull riders.

"I kind of serve as a backup bull fighter. The barrel man is kind of the backup guy that comes in. If you see me in the middle of a bull fight deal, something's gone wrong," he said. "We've got two barrel riders, so I work the barrel, but my job from the hello to the goodnight is to entertain the crowd."

He said that he has seen his share of bumps and bruises while working the barrel.

"I've had a few broken bones and have gotten banged up pretty good," he said. "I really got hurt working the barrels more than when I was a bull fighter. I've hit the barrel so hard that it knocked me out."

He began fighting bulls when he was 15, and has been on the PRCA circuit since 1992.

"I just did bull fighting for five or six years and got more into just the comedy," he said.

He said it had been several years since he was able to perform at the Garden City rodeo, which is held every year during Beef Empire Days.

"It was a long time ago. Probably been 10 years or so ago since we've been here. I always seemed to have something else scheduled, so the dates never worked out, but we finally got on the same page," he said.

McCracken travels to PRCA rodeos across the country, along with his wife, Janice.

"In fact, we home-schooled our kids, so they'd go with us, and now they're grown and it's back to me and mama," he said. "We see a lot of the country and meet a lot of neat people."

The couple lives in Wheaton, Mo., and since March, McCracken has performed in five events — in Ulysses, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and South Dakota. The remainder of the schedule includes stops in Tennessee, Wyoming, Utah, Georgia and Nebraska, with another stop in Abilene at the beginning of August.

McCracken will perform each night of the BED PRCA Rodeo.

"I switch my acts up a little bit from night to night. I kind of like to keep people wondering what we're going to do next," he said. "I'm out there playing a lot of different characters. I do a lot of musical acts, and I've got the ostrich jockey, where I'll be riding the ostrich."

He describes his show as good family entertainment and said that he loves his job.

"It's just a joy really. You don't really work a day in your life, when you enjoy what you're doing," he said. "To go out here tonight and do comedy and help people have a good time, when there aren't too many promising things going on right now, that's where I get my satisfaction; to help folks get away from their troubles and laugh."

The PRCA Rodeo is scheduled to begin at 7 tonight and Saturday night. For more information about Gizmo, visit his website at www.gizmomccracken.com.

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