Pacer Lee tries to ride Ragu ealier this summer in the saddle bronc riding competition at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo. The series will return at 7:30 p.m. today with the first of two weekend performances.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Pacer Lee tries to ride Ragu ealier this summer in the saddle bronc riding competition at the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo. The series will return at 7:30 p.m. today with the first of two weekend performances.

Rodeo hopes 'Wild Child' fills stands

Nationally known act in Steamboat Springs for 2-week run

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Rodeo schedule

6 p.m. Pre-rodeo barbecue starts

6:15 to 7:15 p.m. Pre-rodeo live entertainment

7:30 p.m. Rodeo starts

The rodeo runs every Friday and Saturday through Aug. 16.

Ticket prices

Adults: $15

Children ages 7 to 15: $8

Children ages 6 and younger: free

Tickets are available at F.M. Light & Sons, Ghost Ranch Saloon, Sheraton Steamboat Resort, Steamboat Grand, Gondola General, Information Center/Vacation Services in Gondola Square, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Steamboat Central Reservations.

All tickets are general admission.

— Faced with the same gloomy economic outlook that seems to have given the rest of city indigestion, the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series vowed last winter not to go on a diet.

It swore to stick to its traditional 10-week, 20-performance schedule, to pull all the stops when it came to attracting competitors, and to roll out the same glitzy lineup of clowns and nationally renowned rodeo acts fans had become accustomed to.

"If anything, you're going to see a better product," rodeo board member Rob Powers said in December.

Patrons at this weekend's two performances, the first of which starts at 7:30 p.m. today at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena in downtown Steamboat Springs, will see the evidence of that plan.

As the rodeo approaches the midway point of its summer run - admittedly dealing with a decline in attendance - it turns to its biggest act.

Troy "Wild Child" Lerwill has been voted five times as the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association comedy act of the year and has served three times as a barrelman at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

He will perform at both Steamboat rodeos this weekend and again at next weekend's shows.

"The thing about Troy is that everyone loves him," rodeo board member Char Mighton said. "His act is spectacular, he's very funny and the crowd loves it. We are hoping he is going to be a big draw for the next two weeks."

Lerwill will serve as the weekend's clown and barrelman, and as a special rodeo entertainer.

He said he began developing his routine the first time he hopped on a dirt bike when he was 11. He went on to live the life of a daredevil. He raced on the professional motocross circuit for six years and served as a rodeo bull fighter after that.

Eventually, he combined his two loves, creating a motorcycle-powered rodeo act. His high-flying, quick-witted performance has been one of the most popular events at the Steamboat rodeo since he first laid tracks here five years ago.

"I'm always looking forward to coming to Steamboat," he said Thursday from his Utah home. "I really enjoy the atmosphere at that rodeo."

Rarely does the weekend's clown influence a crowd, and landing an act that actually does comes with costs.

Lerwill is the highest paid act performing this summer in Steamboat.

He does come as a little bit of a bargain considering he performs his motorcycle act and normal clown and barrelman duties (other acts scheduled for later in the summer require the rodeo board to book a clown in addition to the act). Still, Mighton guessed Lerwill's costs approach twice that of a regular weekend performer.

"I know there are people who come when he's here," Mighton said. "He is a draw, so we're trying to promote him a little more."

In the light of a significant decrease in available city funds and dealing with a batch of advertisers facing an equally stormy economy, the board tried out several new plans this summer.

Sales of a new $35 season pass started slow, Mighton said, but picked up in the week before the first rodeo.

"That, in some form, will be back next year," she said. "It went over very well."

In all, the rodeo's attendance is down 8.4 percent versus a year ago. A month of spotty rainstorms hasn't helped.

It's not good news, but compared to numbers from around town, it could be worse.

May's city of Steamboat Springs sales tax numbers were down 16.5 percent compared to last year, and the lodging numbers, drawn from more recent weeks, are down, as well.

With a soaring "wild child," the rodeo hopes to avoid losing any more people in the seats.

"We consider ourselves very lucky to have Troy for two weeks this year," Mighton said.

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