Rick Bentley

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star James Pickens brings charity event to Clovis Rodeo

• ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Pickens rides into Clovis

• Charity event moves from LeBec after five years

• Don’t expect to see horse riding on ‘Grey’s’

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“Grey’s Anatomy” star James Pickens Jr. didn’t exactly grow up in the Wild West. He’s a Cleveland native who’s long list of acting credits include TV shows such as “The X-Files,” “The Practice” and “Brooklyn South.”

“The 6th Annual James Pickens Jr. Foundation Charity Open Roping” is 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 21, just days before the kick off of the “101st Clovis Rodeo” that runs April 23-26. After five years of the annual event being held at the Tejon Ranch in LeBec, the competition has moved to the Clovis Rodeo grounds.

“We are honored to be part of the Clovis Rodeo as it’s one of the oldest in the country. It’s a huge, huge thing to be part of it and so far everyone has been so gracious,” Pickens says.

The actor — best known for his 11 seasons on “Grey’s Anatomy” playing Dr. Richard Webber — got his passion for riding from his father’s love of western TV shows that filled the channels in the ’50s.

In the ’70s, he lived near a rental stable in New York and when he moved to Los Angeles in the ‘90s, Pickens was able to connect with wranglers through his work in movies and TV.

These days he owns two horses — Reno and Moose — and rides both for pleasure and in competition when time allows. He makes sure he has time for this charity roping event, which benefits two charities. One is a cowboy camp for disenfranchised youth and the other is an after school program.

To date, more than $50,000 has been raised through the charity competition that features some of the top ropers in the world, plus a pro-am event. Admission is free to the the charity roping event. Money is raised for the charities through entry fees and sponsors.

Pickens would love to combine his love of riding with his passion for acting. He doubts “Grey’s Anatomy” will ever do an episode where his riding skills would come in handy. That’s OK. The show has already given him so much.

“We are about to wrap our 11th season. It’s more than a blessing to have a job like this, especially at this stage in the career and to be an African-American actor,” Pickens, 60, says.

Ticket sales for the “101st Clovis Rodeo” are on sale now at the ticket office at the rodeo grounds, by calling (559) 299-5203 or going to www.clovisrodeo.com.

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