DODGE CITY, Kan. – Cody Cavanaugh, Mike Keiper and Josh Mertens have different thoughts on horsepower than most who are involved with the 2015 Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.
They are an integral part of Wisconsin Freestyle Motocross, which will be one of the featured pieces of entertainment during the five performances of the rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2. The three athletes will put on a spectacular display of freestyle motocross jumps inside Roundup Arena.
“We’re pretty excited about working that event,” said Cavanaugh, the founder of WIFMX, based in Neenah, Wis. “We always like going to new places. You get to meet the rodeo committee members and usually make good friends that way. It’s also nice for us to see a different culture.”
The WIFMX players all have extensive motocross experience. Now in their third year as a specialty act in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Cavanaugh and staff travel the rodeo trail putting on shows that expose some amazing feats on the backs of motorcycles.
“One of the things that make our show unique is that quite a few of us can ride motorcycles and jump four-wheelers,” he said. “I like the way we’re diverse in that way.”
It’s just another big piece of the entertainment pie that is Roundup Rodeo, which was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2012. It already is a key stop on the ProRodeo trail and will feature hundreds of the top contestants in the game. By combining with WIFMX, the volunteer rodeo committee that produces the annual event is just increasing the value for fans.
“We take a lot of pride in having the very best in rodeo,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the committee. “We have world champions in every performance of our rodeo, and we wanted to bring something else to the table for our great fans to enjoy.
“A lot of people come back to our rodeo year after year, and we always want to give them something special to enjoy. I believe having Cody Cavanaugh and his group here will really help make this year’s rodeo even better.”
Though his primary focus is on riding motorcycles, Cavanaugh grew up in a rodeo family. His parents were raised in South Dakota, and his father grew up on a farm and was part of rodeo as a roper and barrelman.
“When my parents moved to Wisconsin, we had horses on the farm right away, and we still have a horse-drawn carriage business we still run,” he said. “We have a hobby farm with petting-zoo animals. That’s how I had room enough to ride motorcycles around Wisconsin.”
He was outfitted with a three-wheeler at age 3, then moved on to his first dirt bike at 7. He started building little jumps with friends, then the jumps kept getting bigger. He loved the idea of FMX because of what he had seen on television and found it to be a great outlet.
Of course, being outside and active was a big part of how he was raised.
“As a kid, I roped quite a bit, and I come from a horse background,” Cavanaugh said. “In fact, our jumps are set up in a horse pasture.”
The WIFMX team now has a customized ramping system it takes to rodeos all across the country, from Pleasant Grove, Utah, to Park Rapids, Minn., to Dodge City. It takes just a few minutes of set-up time, and the excitement in the arena takes off. That’s where Cavanaugh, Keiper and Mertens show off the elaborate tricks they’ve perfected over the years.
“There is a small crashing curve that comes with learning new tricks,” Cavanaugh said. “If you’re going to push yourself, it can sometimes not end well. With a lot of practice, our confidence grew.
“I tell people all the time that we’ve been allowed to do these cool jobs of just riding motorcycles. Find something you like to do and do it all the time.”
It works for the WIFMX team, and for fans that make their way to Roundup Arena.