DODGE CITY, Kan. – Troy Lerwill is a combination of thing: athlete, daredevil, comedian.
It wraps together quite nicely in a package called “Showman.” It will all be on display during the five performances of the 2012 Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1-Sunday, Aug. 5, at Roundup Arena.
“Troy is funny and entertaining, and he brings something to our rodeo that our fans just love,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “Troy has a great sense of humor, and he uses it very well throughout each performance. He pays attention to what’s going on around him and using it to entertain.
“That’s what any rodeo needs.”
Rodeos also need one great acts, and that’s where Lerwill and his motorcycle come into play.
The motorcycle act involves Lerwill’s alter-ego, “The Wild Child,” who jumps a Bloomer trailer and a Ram pickup in a showcase of comedy mixed with athleticism.
“For one, he’s a great funnyman,” said Jesse James Kirby of Dodge City, one of the top 30 saddle bronc riders in the country. “He’s also a great motorcyclist. He can do things on that motorbike that you can’t even imagine people doing. It’s just really great, and he’s a great entertainer.
“On top of that, Troy is just a good person to be around. You can tell he’s doing something he enjoys doing. He puts on a show and makes it look good.”
People enjoy what they see, and that happens nationwide. Lerwill is one of the most celebrated acts in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He’s been the barrelman at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo three times, has twice been named the Coors Man in the Can, and he’s been named the PRCA Act of the Year six times.
All those awards are nice, but what makes Lerwill one of the most sought-after entertainers in rodeo is what he does in the arena – in addition to his fantastic daredevil act, the Payson, Utah, man has the timing of a comedic genius.
It comes quite naturally to Lerwill, the son of a roper who grew up going to rodeos in Utah and Colorado with his father. Though he never competed, Troy Lerwill was hooked … even if it took a few years for him to realize it.
“I had a Shetland pony growing up, and I always like horses,” Lerwill said. “I roped with my dad when I was little, but I always wanted a motorcycle.”
His parents realized he was pretty good at maneuvering the machine and began taking him to desert races. By the time he was 12, Lerwill was excelling at motocross.
“It just evolved from there,” he said.
Racing was a big part of Lerwill’s life for a long time. But at age 24, Lerwill had begun riding mountain bikes through the Utah trails instead of the motorized ones over the quick jumps and turns of motocross. Through all that, he found a new rush: Bullfighting. The rodeo arena was drawing him back. He went to a bullfighting school, and a new career was born.
“I got my PRCA card in 1993,” he said. “I started doing the comedy stuff in ’95.”
It didn’t take long for Lerwill to step up his game. A local stock contractor hired him to fight bulls and entertain.
“I was in Evanston, Wyo., the first time I put the microphone on,” he said. “I was so damn scared that I was dry-heaving. But I got it done.”
He’s gotten it done a lot in the years since. He has become one of the most sought-after acts in ProRodeo, and there’s good reason.
“You don’t get tired of seeing Troy’s act,” Kirby said. “The last time I saw him was in Jacksonville, Texas, and it’s always great. If the crowd’s not really into the rodeo or whatever, Troy will find something that will get them into it.”
For Lerwill, life is about reaching out to people and sharing his passion for the rodeo way of life. He may go about it in different terms than most cowboys, but there is a distinct passion involved in everything he does.
“I really don’t want the Western heritage and lifestyle, and the tradition of cowboy to go away, and I want young people to enjoy it like I did,” Lerwill said. “Rodeo is a huge chunk of our history.
“Even though I take a motorcycle to a rodeo and do a stunt, I hope it makes fans of people and they come back.”