GUYMON, Okla. – Troy Lerwill is a showman. He’s also an athlete and a daredevil.
It all comes together in the Oklahoma Panhandle the first weekend in May for the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, which celebrates its 80th year with four performances set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 4; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
“Troy is one of the funniest guys out there, not just in rodeo,” said Pete Carr, owner of Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based livestock firm that serves as the primary stock contractor in Guymon. “I try to get him as often as I can, because he brings a whole new dimension to each show. He’s the best entertainer in rodeo because of how he handles the crowd.
“Then you add his motorcycle act into the mix, and it’s just over-the-top. Everybody wants to come back the next day just to see it again.”
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. It’s something
“It’s funny every time I see it,” said Ken Stonceipher, the production manager for Pioneer Days Rodeo. “There’s just something magical in that entire act.”
It’s the magic that has been on display at Hitch Arena before. Fans in the Oklahoma Panhandle have been asking about Lerwill’s return, so the rodeo committee and Carr made sure he is part of this year’s showcase.
“We’re reaching out to a different group of people that will watch the rodeo if you bring something they like,” said Earl Helm, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual event. “You’ve got to listen to the crowd and see what they’re interested in.
“Troy is phenomenal at what he does. What he does brings in a new group, but it also reaches out to the traditional rodeo fan. Everybody just loves to see him here.”
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’s the full package that attracted producers of the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, where Lerwill will perform March 29-April 1 in Oklahoma City.
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.
“People just love to watch Troy, because he’s that good,” Carr said. “He can bring people to your rodeo to see what he can do; that’s a true entertainer.”
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.”