Whoever wrote “Beer Barrel Polka” didn’t necessarily have Flint Rasmussen in mind, but some of the lyrics certainly are appropriate in describing the longtime rodeo clown/barrelman.
“Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun.”
Indeed, when Rasmussen rolled out his barrel at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas &Mack Center — first in 1998, opening his eight-year run as WNFR barrelman — a barrel of fun was sure to follow. He combined his zippy one-liners and nifty dance moves with his uncanny ability to help protect bull riders in danger.
Rasmussen took time for a Q-&-A session to discuss his experience with the WNFR and his live TV show at Cowboy Christmas, “Outside the Barrel,” at noon each day.
Question: What’s your first memory of being at the WNFR?
Answer: I’ll go with three. The first one was in 1991. I went to the NFR with my folks. To walk into that arena, it was just crazy to be there. The second was in 1995 or ’96. My wife and I had plaza seats for one night. And the third was Night No. 1 of the 1998 NFR, my first time as barrelman there. I rolled my barrel out, and there I was, sitting in the middle of the arena.
Q: What did you like most about performing at the WNFR?
A: No. 1, it was the biggest, most sparkling venue I’d been to at the time. But the first few years, I couldn’t step out of the barrel or perform. As the NFR loosened up, and as (general manager) Shawn Davis saw what I could bring, the last couple years I had a microphone. There was a trust there. The dancing part, that was just me. That’s what I did all year long.
Q: What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen at the WNFR?
A: One year, Ty Murray, in one of the later go-rounds, had the option for a re-ride. He still would’ve won fourth in the round, but he did not want that. He took his re-ride, he moved up — I can’t remember if it was first or second — and he ended up winning the world championship by the amount of money he won taking that re-ride. To me, it was old-school. That’s Ty Murray. It was the spirit of competition — somebody coming there to do one thing, and that was win.
Q: These days at the WNFR, you’re involved in other ways, most notably your “Outside the Barrel” daily TV show at Cowboy Christmas. What do you enjoy most about that role?
A: For one, I think people didn’t realize it, but the show utilizes the talents I believe I’ve always had. Growing up, I was in singing groups and starred in school plays. Rodeo clown was my avenue to being an entertainer. With “Outside the Barrel,” I wanted to introduce contestants to fans in ways that had never been done before. I enjoy the opportunity to be quick-witted, to let people see the real me. You can have that dirt and clown make-up; I’ll take the sportcoat and TV cameras!
Q: You host the show, with Curt Blake as your sidekick. But as the WNFR has grown, other shows have cropped up, too. What are you doing to keep “Outside the Barrel” a fan favorite?
A: It’s made it harder to get contestants to do a daytime thing. So we’ve reached out to celebrities. We go get Wayne Newton. We got Jeff Dunham, Charlie Daniels, Terry Fator. We got Luke Perry last year, who played Lane Frost in “8 Seconds.” We try to get those people, in addition to contestants, so that the fans say, “That’s a show we need to come to.” And we’ve done that.