A barrel of laughs
BY LIZ VINSON
Alabama rodeo clown brings his national act back home
As a professional rodeo clown and barrel man, Hope Hull’s Trent McFarland lives a vagabond lifestyle, traveling across the country to entertain thousands of fans.
A second-generation rodeo entertainer, McFarland was able to hone the skills that would launch his career while growing up in Cody, Wyoming, the Rodeo Capital of the World. Instead of teaching McFarland how to play sports, his father, Sid, trained him to break conventional rules, parlaying his knack for “clowning around” into a successful career entertaining audiences near and far.
“My father was a rodeo clown, and we had a really close relationship,” McFarland says. “I was a few weeks old when I went to my first rodeo, and my father helped me jump in rather quickly. Instead of teaching me how to throw a football, he was teaching me how to put on makeup and taught me the ins and outs of the profession so that I was able to skip straight to the good life. He taught me how to be a professional in and out of the arena. Once I was able to book my own rodeos, everything took off like wildfire.”
McFarland’s job requires that he entertain audiences as the bull riders transition between competitions, heckling the crowd with jokes or putting on elaborate skits to get the crowd roaring.
But his job is also to help the cowboys who are thrown off during bull riding. He jokingly says, “As the backup bullfighter, I back up another 10 feet if things get bad.”
In reality, he does just the opposite. If things in the arena get out of control, McFarland steps up in his “clown-dominium” (the barrel) and gives the bulls something to focus their attention on.
His in-your-face comedy is recognized nationwide, and his success continues to skyrocket. By the end of last year, McFarland, who travels with his family, navigated more than 40,000 miles as he performed more than 100 times at different arenas around the nation.
Presenting a special brand of entertainment, McFarland beckons children and adults to engage, laugh and enjoy a performance that is unique among his peers.
“I include a wide variety of ways to interact with the crowd,” McFarland says. “Some rodeo clowns stick with one act and that’s it. They might want to strictly dance or tell jokes, but I incorporate multiple acts and a wide variety of ways to interact with the audience. There are acts I can do to entertain a crowd in one part of a country that would differ from what I would do in another. You have to switch it up, and that has been a key to my success.”
In addition to his father, McFarland credits his wife, Wendy, for his continued success. She is not only behind the scenes, managing and marketing McFarland’s products, but she joins him during his performances, donning a blonde wig and getting in on the fun. McFarland and his wife are a duo, not only inside the home, parenting their two sons, but as a family when they cross over state lines from venue to venue, to and from Hope Hull.
While McFarland realizes their way of life could be considered unconventional, he notes they wouldn’t have it any other way. He praises his wife for her ability to charm audiences and be the backbone for what McFarland is able to do.
“Lots of people think we’re crazy to travel the miles we do, but we love it,” McFarland says. “It can be a tough job, but my wife is amazing. She’s also an absolutely amazing showman, plays a major part in the acts, and she’s got great showmanship skills. She is by far my biggest support system with what we do. Being married to a rodeo clown isn’t the easiest, but she’s not afraid to ham it up and be in the spotlight.”
A nurse in his “other life”
When he’s not living out his alter ego in the arena, he is busy working as a nurse at Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery, a job he has had since 2003. He notes that his work at the hospital often transfers nicely into his work within the ring.
“It crosses over really well. When patients come in the operating room, they’re scared, and I can tell them jokes to help them forget their worries. By the same token, when cowboys get hurt, I’m the first one to them, and I can make an assessment of how serious the injury is,” McFarland says.
Behind the yellow wig and face paint, McFarland is truly at ease as a performer. The rodeo scene is one where McFarland is at home, and for him, being a rodeo clown and barrel man is a blessing as well as an addiction.
“Being a rodeo clown allows me to have the opportunity to travel with my family and see the country, meet friends all over America and make a good living. My family and I have fun together,” McFarland says.
“Rodeo is family-friendly, and I am able to provide audiences with an opportunity to laugh. The thrill of the crowd and the response I get from them makes my job addicting. It’s where the blessing is for me, that I get to provide entertainment for families where now, especially in modern America, it’s hard to find true entertainment that everyone enjoys.”
McFarland is scheduled to perform at Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum during its SLE Rodeo March 16-18. Of his appearance in his home state, he notes the show is a dream come true.
“Getting a hometown show is a feat that most entertainers will probably never obtain. Now that I’ve become a success in the rodeo world, they’ve asked me to be in Montgomery where I can perform in front of my family and friends, and they can see us perform. We’re very excited,” McFarland says.
For more information, visit www.trentmcfarland.com or find him on Facebook
The annual SLE Rodeo, set for March 16-18 at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery, will feature some of the country’s best cowboys and cowgirls and stock provided by Frontier Rodeo Company, the 2016 PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year.
The rodeo is a family-friendly event, with several events just for children, including a stick horse rodeo for young ones under 8.
The championship events begin at 7 p.m. March 16, 17 and 18, with SLE team roping beginning at 8 a.m. March 19.
For the full lineup of activities, visit www.slerodeo.com
Tickets are available by calling 888-2RODEO2; by visiting the Alabama Cattlemen’s building or Garrett Coliseum; online at Ticketmaster; or at local Publix stores.