Abbyville rodeo, two Reno County natives nominated for national PRCA awards

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News
Award-winning rodeo clown Justin Rumford entertains the crowd during Abbyville Frontier Days PRCA Rodeo on May 21, 2021.

Being tucked away in western Reno County and having less than 100 residents, is not stopping Abbyville from achieving national recognition.

Last week, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association nominated the Abbyville Frontier Days PRCA Rodeo as one of the top five small rodeos of the year. National recognition did not stop there. Two of the town's natives are also nominated. Haley (Rumford) Bridwell and Justin Rumford are once again in the top five in the nation for secretary and clown.

"It's an honor to be nominated. You're kind of shocked because this is a large group of rodeos that fit into this category; there's probably 600 or 700 rodeos in the United States that fall into the category of small rodeo," said Jeff Welker, the Abbyville Frontier Days board president. "It's really a testament to the things that we tried to do at the rodeo."

Abbyville will be competing against small rodeos in Colorado, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Washington for the title of 2021 Prairie Circuit Small Rodeo of the Year. Each rodeo was voted on by contestants nationwide.

"They were nominated because cowboys and cowgirls who compete think it is one of the best small rodeos to compete in," said Tracy Renck, editor of ProRodeo Sports News.

Livi and Lola Rumford, two of Justin Rumford's triplets, carry the flags and are honored as "Little Miss Britches" during the opening ceremony at the Abbyville Frontier Days PRCA Rodeo on May 21. Their brother was "Uncle Sam."

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Dodge City is one of five competing for Outdoor Rodeo of the Year. The winner of each category will be announced at the PRCA Awards Banquet on Dec. 1 in Las Vegas.

Although Abbyville would love to win, simply getting nominated is an honor. 

"We couldn't do this without everybody. It takes fans, contestants, and sponsors that help financially support the rodeo, so it's a community effort on everybody's part," Welker said. "It takes 50 to 70 people to make it all happen, and that's what it's all about."

Welker said, along with the friendliness of the crowd and the family atmosphere, the Abbyville pies set their rodeo apart from others.

Let the laughs begin

Justin Rumford won PRCA clown of the year for the past nine years, beginning in 2012. 

"He's won it more than any other PRCA clown in history," Renck said. 

Rumford also won the national Coors Man in a Can award three times. 

Last spring, Rumford entertained his hometown as the barrel man. He told jokes about playing football at Fairfield High School and competing against Pretty Prairie. The crowd applauded, many laughing as he ran around with a fake gorilla and taunted several real bulls. Although Rumford is thrilled to receive the nomination of the clown of the year once again, he is overjoyed that his hometown rodeo is being honored.

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"I'm just so I'm happy to be nominated with Abbyville," Rumford said. "I'm so happy for that community."

Rumford, a third-generation cowboy, lives in Ponca City, but his roots remain in Abbyville. 

"I've seen the amount of work that those guys do to put that (Abbyville Frontier Days) on, and I don't know if anybody realizes how much goes into it," Rumford said. "It's not just a one-weekend deal; it's a year-round job for volunteers."

Tim Mast from Hutchinson, Kansas, rides bull 68D during the first night of the Abbyville Frontier Days Rodeo Friday.

Like the Abbyville rodeo and its humble beginnings, Rumford said his secret to his success is not putting on an act.

"When I'm in the arena, it's just me being me dressed up a little different," he said. "I just try to talk about having fun and just having fun with people in the stands because  having fun is contagious, and if you get a couple (of) people having fun, the people around them want to have fun."

Similar to the rodeo, Rumford's competition will be announced at the national PRCA event.

"I want the people to not to look at me so much as a clown entertainer," he said. "But just as a friend out there that's funny because everybody likes to have a funny guy around."