Jayson Charters: rodeo clown extraordinaire
“He’s a sparkplug. He never stops moving.”
Those were the words of one enthralled fan after witnessing for the first time the outrageous antics of rodeo clown Jayson Charters from Merritt.
Indeed, Charters’ performances are something to behold. All energy, excitement and eccentricity rolled into one. A chaotic blend of athleticism and hilarity that has audiences young and old splitting their sides laughing and begging for more.
Nicola Valley rodeo fans will get a chance to see Charters ‘do his thing’ firsthand this coming Labour Day weekend, when he performs at the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s scheduled event at the Collettville rodeo grounds on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 1 - 2.
It’s hard to believe that at the age of 42, Charters is a relative rookie at being a rodeo clown. With less than two years under his belt, he performs his routines like a seasoned veteran, and displays the timing and savvy of one who has spent a lifetime at his craft. Charters himself knows that he has at last found his true calling.
“It’s my destiny,” he says. “It’s where I was always meant to be. Everything in my life has brought me to this point.”
Charters was born and raised in Merritt and is a proud member of the Okanagan-Thompson Nation. From birth, the hyper-energetic youngster hit the ground running, involving himself in every sport imaginable and embracing life to its fullest.
It didn’t take long for Charters to latch onto rodeo. His dad had been a competitor, and it was very much a part of the way of life of the Nicola Valley where he grew up.
By the age of 8, Charters was already steer riding, and at 14, he became one of the youngest bareback riders on the British Columbia rodeo circuit.
Three times, Charters competed at the National High School Finals Rodeo. In 1989, he qualified for not only the NHSFR in Pueblo, Colorado but the Indian National Finals in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
For thirteen years, Charters competed on the senior rodeo circuits in British Columbia (BCRA, WIERA) until an injury brought about his retirement in 2003.
For the next few years, he focused mainly on his career as a logging truck driver, and on helping his wife, Yvonne, raise their two daughters, Sydney and Courtney.
Charters’ return to the rodeo scene, and specifically to clowning, came about almost by accident.
“In the spring of 2010, I offered to help a friend of mine ‘crack gates’ at a rodeo in Deadman’s Creek, B.C. Almost as an afterthought, I said jokingly, ‘If you can get a barrel, I’ll get into it’.”
One thing led to another that fateful weekend, and pretty soon Charters was busy constructing a full-fledged set of clown routines, complete with props and crazy costumes.
“My very first clown performance was with an old, gutted washing machine that I nicknamed a ‘Jay-tag 2000’. It was a hit.”
The phone has been ringing off the hook ever since. In 2011, Charters did numerous rodeos throughout B.C. and Alberta, and this summer has done seven in his home province alone. His many miles on the road have been eventful to say the least.
“I went through three vehicles last summer,” Charters says with a chuckle. “I blew the engine in my wife’s car, and the transmission in my step-daughter’s vehicle. I finally got a truck of my own and wound up hitting a deer at 110km/hr near Mayrethorpe, Alberta. I barely made it home.”
As a barrel man during the bull riding event at rodeos, Charters has also experienced his share of high-risk moments.
“About a month ago, in Kamloops, I got quite banged up in the barrel,” he describes. “I got launched across the arena by a bull. Jarred my back and neck pretty good.”
As the only First Nations rodeo clown in British Columbia, Jayson is very proud of that distinction, and is very much in demand.
“Clowning allows me to express myself,” Charters says, “and my love for people. I also get to demonstrate some of my talents, such as my sense of humor, my love of dancing and my ability to be spontaneous and ‘seize the moment’.”
Most of all, Charters adores the children in his audiences, and in turn embraces their adoration and their involvement.
”I love the kids, and how they’re drawn to me. It gives me shivers up my spine. I love to touch their hearts.”
Charters takes great pride in the relationship that he creates with all of his audiences, and the preparation, effort and energy that he puts into his performances.
“I love to work the crowd. That’s where I shine. I’ve seen some of the great clowns in the sport of rodeo perform, like Leon Coffey and Rudy Burns. I aspire to be as good as them one day.”
All indications are that Charters is well on his way.