The 108th annual Labette County Fair, while filled with many popular events, brought special entertainment during its rodeo Wednesday night in the Bill and Shirley McKenzie Arena at the Oswego fairgrounds with Gizmo McCracken.
Gizmo, as he’s called by enthusiastic fans, made his second visit to the Labette County area for a night of thrills and spills, but all in good fun and laughs.
Well known in the world of county fairs and rodeos and an acting member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Gizmo was awarded the 2017 Comedy Act of the Year, and he hoped to not only just prove why but also “share in having a great time” with his audience. Stock contractor/producer Kyle Robinson, owner of Big Horn Rodeo Co., was a new addition to this year’s fair changes.
“It’s all about those smiles and the laughter,” Gizmo said prior to the rodeo Wednesday evening. Sitting nearby the arena where he would soon perform, he pointed toward bleachers that would be filled with excited rodeo spectators.
“If I can help them forget about all the negativity we see in the world today, that matters a lot to me,” he said. “These small, rural areas are unique in their own way. I’m entertaining a large demographic. Every age from little kids to your grandma. And let me tell you, what fair offers you free ice cream? Not even the million dollar rodeos offer that.”
Of course, he had Everett Becker, fair superintendent, to thank for the ice cream machine located in the fair board office.
At age 15, Gizmo participated in FFA and junior rodeos but found that he was “better at comedy than fighting bulls.”
“You find that out pretty quick,” he said, chuckling.
With many accomplishments, and more potentially still growing, Gizmo’s experience to “comedy — rodeo style,” comes from his years of being part of 11 PRCA Circuit Final Rodeos and Dodge National Circuit Finals among other large events in even larger cities. He has been nominated for Comedy Act of the Year twice and was featured in the 2005 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“I’m a family guy myself, you see,” he began when asked about his preference of comedy. “And I like comedy that everyone in the family can appreciate. I’ll tell a joke for the kids, but then one for the adults — not raunchy humor. The right kind of comedy can put a smile on anyone’s face.”
The name Gizmo came from his time as being featured as a special guest in a gospel group house band performing in Branson, Missouri. The band told him he needed a stage name.
“They called me ‘Gizmo, the Ozark’s Greatest Inventor.’ Since then, it’s just stuck,” Gizmo said.
Since starting his career in the rodeo business, Gizmo has sustained plenty of injuries, some so severe that he underwent several surgeries for his neck and back.
“My knees sound like Rice Crispies sometimes — Frosted Flakes turning into Rice Crispy treats — but it’s been over 40 years. My body’s been through a lot, but you know how it goes … and when you have a family, it gets hard to be away from home.”
Gizmo resides in Fairview with his wife, Janice, and when he isn’t in the arena cracking laughs for the crowd, or using some of his unique “inventions,” the couple spend time with their two daughters, Mandy and Cassie, and four grandchildren, Jaylen, Bronc, Brimley and Raeley.
“Now they’re about the age they can come with me to these things during the summer, which makes me and my wife happy. We want them to see what the rodeo is about, and if I can make them laugh, then it’s even better. I’d say I’m very blessed, and thank God every day.”