Clowning Around

By: Ruth Nicolaus

Colorado man to work as rodeo clown at Hamel

JW Winklepleck will “clown around” at the 40th anniversary of the Hamel Rodeo. The Colorado cowboy has been involved in rodeo since he was a child. Photo by Paul Scott.

Hamel, Minn.– J.W. Winklepleck has no problem wearing makeup.

In fact, the Colorado man puts it on every time he goes to his job.

And his job is to entertain the thousands of fans who come to the Hamel Rodeo, this year held July 8-11 at Corcoran Lions Park.

Winklepleck has been putting on the rodeo clown grease paint since he was a teenager.

The son of a family in Strasburg, Colo., that owned rodeo bucking bulls and horses, he helped his parents with their rodeos. His dad suggested that J.W. use his humor in the arena. They needed a few minutes of time to switch events in the arena, so J.W. got put to use.

“My dad said, you’ve always been a clown all your life. So why don’t you do some acts and buy me some time?” J.W.’s rodeo career was born.

He was a bareback rider as a young man, competing collegiately at the University of Wyoming on scholarship and graduating with an ag-business degree. He continued to ride bareback horses till about ten years ago. Oftentimes, he’d ride at the same rodeos that hired him to be the clown.

“I’d ride in my makeup, then get off and clown.” He used his humor, even then. “If I got bucked off, I could say I was just the clown,” he laughed.

J.W. has a variety of rodeo clown acts, everything from being pulled on a snowboard behind a horse in the arena, to a mini motorcycle act. “I tailor my acts to fit the rodeo.”

He and his wife Brenda have three grown children: Chelsea, Tera and Trevor. When his kids were little, they were in his acts. Now he has a granddaughter, and when she’s old enough, he hopes to include her. “She’ll be in a clown act when she gets old enough.”

Part of his job as rodeo clown is to work as the barrelman, manning the barrel during the bull riding. The barrel is an oasis of safety for the bull rider and bullfighters. He loves being a barrelman as much as being a rodeo clown.

“Part of the adrenaline rush I lost when I quit riding bucking horses I get back in working the barrel during the bull riding.”

J.W. has been selected to work ten circuit finals rodeos, including the Mountain States Circuit Finals and the Wilderness Circuit Finals.

He will perform during each performance of the Hamel Rodeo July 8-11. The rodeo starts at 7:30 pm each night, with a 1 pm matinee on Saturday, July 10.

All tickets are general admission and are $24; tickets for the July10 matinee are $18. Fans are encouraged to buy tickets in advance, as sell-out crowds are anticipated.

They can be purchased online at and at the gate.

For more information, visit the website at or call 763.478.6611.