Clown excels in father’s footsteps

Published 10:35 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One of the highlights of any rodeo is its clowns, and the 15th annual Gates County Championship Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. May 11 and 12, promises not to disappoint, as Trent McFarland will be bringing what turns out to be the family business to town.

McFarland learned the art of the professional rodeo entertainer and “barrel man” — commonly known as the rodeo clown — at his father’s knee.

McFarland developed his own character and his own style after years of learning the ropes from his father, professional rodeo clown Sid McFarland.

“Some kids are born into a rich family,” the younger McFarland recalls in his press biography. “I got lucky and was born into a rodeo clown family.”


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Sid McFarland was known as one of the best rodeo clowns in the business and spent many years teaching his son how to entertain crowds of rodeo fans.

“His struggles and triumphs helped pave a road straight to clowning for me,” the son recalled. “I was blessed to learn from a man very good at his profession. He taught me that in order to be a cowboy, you have to be an athlete, and that means more than just having athlete’s feet. We have to be in good physical and mental shape, which means that we have to eat right, exercise and stay away from drugs or substances that interfere with our ability to think.”

But since those early years of learning important business and life lessons from his father, the younger McFarland has moved on to create his own character and his own style, having become known during his 19 years as a working barrel man for his quick wit, crowd interaction and high level of energy.

Even after 19 years, though, Trent McFarland still remembers the first night his father let him stay in the ring during the bull riding competition.

“Some people ask, ‘How do you know what to do?’” he said. “Let me let you in on a secret: It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that when a bull is blowing boogers in your back pocket, the best thing to do is run like crazy!”

Through the years, the act would develop — he added a clown barrel at one point and quickly learned that it can be even more frightening to have an angry bull using the barrel as a piñata while the clown is inside it than for the clown to be able to run away from the bull.

“Some folks think that I may be a bit crazy to do what I do for a living,” he said. “I just enjoy helping others and making people smile.”

And he takes that desire to help others seriously, even though he’s a clown.

As a registered nurse, McFarland is a great asset to the rodeo, able to be in place, giving professional assistance to an injured cowboy within seconds of a mishap.

Even in his clown makeup, it would seem, “When the cowboys get hurt, they are relieved to see me running to the rescue.”

McFarland participated in the National Cowboys Association Finals in 1996; took part in the Triple E Rodeo Finals in 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2007; provided trick-roping pre-show entertainment for an Alan Jackson concert; took part in the Southern Rough Stock Association Finals and the American Bull Riding Association Finals in 2009; and was the IFR 41 Show Case Champion Comedy Act of the Year and the Southeastern Pro Rodeo Association Clown of the Year in 2011.

“I will never forget my fifth-grade teacher telling me that acting like a clown would never get me anywhere,” he said. “I just wish she could see me now as I am traveling this great country, doing what I love.”