Before the 102nd Clovis Rodeo officially began, the public was invited into the Rodeo Grounds for free to watch a jackpot team roping competition — and meet a celebrity — Tuesday, April 19.
Actor and philanthropist — and recreational roper — James Pickens, Jr., who plays Dr. Richard Webber in ABC’s TV series “Grey’s Anatomy” returned to Clovis this year to host his annual team roping event.
The 7th annual James Pickens, Jr. Charity Team Roping offered two competitions: Pro-Am and open roping.
“Most of the top ropers in the business are here,” said Clovis Rodeo arena director Vince Genco. “We have about 150 ropers competing; it might be a little bigger than last year. Last year they moved it for the first time here from Tejon Ranch. They got a lot of good reviews so I think it’s grown this year.”
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The event’s proceeds benefit the James Pickens, Jr. Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to enhance the lives of the underserved and to revitalize local communities.
“I’ve always been a fan of the Western lifestyle and group up all the Westerns on TV as a boy,” said James Pickens, Jr.
When he moved to California from New York in the early 1990s, he became increasingly involved in team roping.
“I was able to form some relationships with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and various team roping associations and called in favors from the guys I knew,” he said, explaining the creation of his event.
“My wife and I have been involved in charities for quite some time, but I wanted to do more than just write a check,” Pickens said. “I thought what would be better than marrying the two — our passion for the charities I’ve been involved in and my passion for team roping.”
Pickens estimates more than $50,000 has been raised for each of his two favorite charities, both based near Los Angeles.
“Camp Gid D Up is a cowboy camp for kids a dear friend of mine, Glynn Turman, and his wife started about 20 years ago,” he said. “He has a ranch about an hour north of Los Angeles. They go down and get inner-city youths at risk and bring them up to the camp for a weekend for free where they ride horses and camp and hike and swim. It exposes them to something they would not be exposed to otherwise.
“The other is a wonderful afterschool program called Hands4Hope directed by Lydia Floyd. It’s a safe haven for kids afterschool coming from single-parent households. It gives them a place where they can come do their homework, computer labs ... They even have a music lab for kids who are interested in music production and recording.”