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All in the family: 22nd Annual Fort Armstrong Rodeo

Trent McFarland’s father was a rodeo clown and his mother was a nurse. Go figure.

Now all grown up, In Ford City’s Crooked Creek Horse Park, he is surrounded by a gaggle of nieces and nephews that all have red noses, just like him. When his one-and-a-half-year-old son Ryder emerges from his nap in suspenders and Wrangler jeans meant for a person ten times his age, Mr. McFarland hoists him onto his knee, dips his finger in a sphere of red paint, and carefully dabs a circle onto the tip of Ryder’s button nose.

“When most dads were teaching their kids how to throw a football, my dad was teaching me how to clown,” said Mr. McFarland, a second generation rodeo clown with 22 years in the profession under his belt– er, suspenders. Now, when he’s not on the road with his family for the rodeo, he works as a nurse in surgery back by his home in Hope Hull, Alabama. “I guess I wanted to make them both proud,” he says of his parents.

Beside him, his “rodeo family,” a collection of other performers, cowboys, and cowgirls prepare in their own ways for the 22nd annual Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo about to begin last weekend, and spectators grab the hands of their own families to find their seats.

Rodeo clown Trent McFarland, back right, of Hope Hull, Ala. adjusts the hat of his his one-and-a-half-year-old son, Ryder, as he hangs out with his family outside of his trailer before performing in the Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on Saturday, July 8, 2017 in Ford City. Growing up, McFarland’s father was a rodeo clown and his mother was a nurse. Now, when he’s not on the road with his family for the rodeo, he works as a nurse in surgery back in Alabama. “I guess I wanted to make them both proud,” McFarland said of his parents. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Rodeo clown Trent McFarland of Hope Hull, Ala. stands for a portrait as he hangs out with his family before performing in the Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on Saturday, July 8, 2017 in Ford City. McFarland is a second-generation rodeo clown with 22 years in the profession. “When most dads were teaching their kids how to throw a football, my dad was teaching me how to clown,” said McFarland. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Rob, left, and Jo Wright of Alexander, N.Y. prepare by their trailer for the Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on Saturday, July 8, 2017 in Ford City. “This is his eighth year on the road with me,” said Mrs. Wright of her horse, Moe, that she adorns with custom patriotic fringe and attire for her American flag tribute. “Horses are so good for the inside of a man… The partner I depend on is a four-legged animal and he gives me his best and I give him my best.” (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Cowboys wait their turn to compete as they sit above the paddocks at Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on Saturday, July 8, 2017 in Ford City. “The rodeo family itself is pretty close knit,” said cowgirl Jo Wright of Alexander, N.Y. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Jo Wright of Alexander, N.Y. rides her horse, Moe, during the American flag tribute that starts off the Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on Saturday, July 8, 2017 in Ford City. “You gotta put yourself into it.,” said Mrs. Wright, whose father fought in World War II and brother and cousins are Marines. She says she designs the tribute around the pacing of the horse, the right piece of music, and what’s in her heart. “If only for five minutes if I could capture someone’s heart and make them proud to be an American, then that was what I was gonna do,” she said. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Animal lover Evie Christopher, 18, of Jacksonville, N.C., holds her new kitten, Nala, while waiting for the Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo to start on Saturday, July 8, 2017 in Ford City. Christopher was in the area to visit her father, and the two of them make a point to hit up the local rodeos. Nala, named after a character in the Lion King, is Christopher’s first kitten. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Cowboy Colton Swearingen holds on to a bucking bronco as he competes in the Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on Saturday, July 8, 2017 in Ford City. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Trick rider Dusti Crain-Dickerson of Jefferson City, Tenn. rides barefoot while standing on the backs of two horses while performing in the Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on Saturday, July 8, 2017 at Crooked Creek Horse Park in Ford City. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Bill and Dorris Wolfe, center, of Apollo, react beside Sonnie Sulkowski and her son Jacob, far right, 13, of Freeport, as they watch the antics of rodeo clown Trent McFarland between events during the Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on Saturday, July 8, 2017 at Crooked Creek Horse Park in Ford City. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Cowboy Jimmy Sanderson jumps from his running horse onto a steer during the steer wrestling competition at the Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on Saturday, July 8, 2017 in Ford City. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)
Cowboy Jacob Moore, 18, of Indian River, Canada, checks Facebook on his phone as he waits between events in the paddock during the Fort Armstrong Championship Rodeo on Saturday, July 8, 2017 at Crooked Creek Horse Park in Ford City. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)