Lucia and his Cowboy Monkey will be featured act at National Circuit Finals
OKLAHOMA CITY – The long list of world champions coming to Oklahoma City the first weekend in April is being overshadowed by one of the most popular “cowboys” in rodeo.
Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey will be the featured performer during the 2013 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, with five performances set for 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4; 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 5; and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.
“It’s pretty amazing to be asked to work an event like that,” said Tommy Lucia, one of the top showmen in rodeo and Whiplash’s handler. “I’m very privileged to be part of it because it has the best cowboys and cowgirls and the best livestock in rodeo.
“It’s second to the National Finals (Rodeo) as far as the contestants and livestock that will be seen.”
Lucia should know. He’s worked some of the biggest events in the sport, including the NFR.
“I’ve been in the PRCA over 40 years,” Lucia said. “In fact, I clowned the National Finals when it was in Oklahoma City.”
Lucia has done much in his lifetime, from riding bulls and bareback horses to working as a bullfighter and rodeo clown. That was all before he became one of the most sought-after specialty acts in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association – he has been recognized as one of the best in the business, and Lucia was recognized as the PRCA’s Entertainer of the Year three straight times, from 2003-05.
But that’s nothing compared to the daily tasks he has of working with animals, including one of the most popular stars in rodeo.
“My feeling is God has a purpose for me, and animals fit into that,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate. I have animals that are above the norm, and we put on an excellent show for audiences of all ages. I know our success is due to God, because we have a monkey that is so well loved by millions of people. I like to see my animals perform and do well and see that the spectators enjoy it.”
The act centers on Whiplash riding a Border collie as the tandem rounds up wild Barbados sheep and pens them.
“We’ve performed in front of stars of all sorts at all kinds of events,” Lucia said. “He’s got a way of affecting the audience, because he rides in a way that shows he likes it. Our dogs are top working dogs, and I’m imported many of them from Scotland. The show we put on is of highly skilled animals.
“I’m more of a prop for them.”
It works, and it sounds like a great fit for ProRodeo’s National Championship, which features the top contestants in each event from the 12 circuits. The competition will be a showcase of extraordinary talent, from the very best weekend warriors in the country to the sport’s most renowned champions; all will by vying for a purse of more than $550,000.
When you combine that athletic talent with the tremendous entertainment featuring Lucia, Whiplash and concerts from Thompson Square (on Friday evening) and Chris Cagle (Saturday), it makes for an amazing opportunity for fans looking for the perfect show in central Oklahoma.
“I think there’s just so much for the spectators that they’ll be able to enjoy the entire rodeo,” Lucia said.