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Rodeo weekend draws a crowd
March 28, 2018

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Considering that there almost wasn't a rodeo this year at the Lee County Posse Arena, the fact they had one had to make people very thankful.

The sixth-annual Fort Myers PRCA Rodeo this past weekend was the biggest and best yet, drawing near sellout crowds for both nights while also giving a huge shot in the arm to the arena, which is still picking up the pieces after Hurricane Irma.

"It's unbelievable. Last night it was sold out. We're so pleased with the crowd," said promoter Margo Crowther, who found time to barrel race. "We give some money to the arena. We're so happy it's up and running following the hurricane."

The rodeo, which had been run in February the past couple years, was pushed back to March so the arena can make repairs while Crowther fulfilled rodeo commitments. It was worth the wait.

Some of the best ropers, riders and racers from Florida and elsewhere came to compete for more than $20,000 in prize money.

Blade Elliott came in from Alabama to compete in the bareback riding, which he has done for nearly 10 years throughout the United States and Canada.

"It's the most physically demanding event in rodeo and the most exciting. It's the Navy Seals of rodeo. I tore an ACL and had reconstructive surgery, but that's the worst. I've been pretty lucky, knock on wood." Elliott said.

The non-riders also have a rodeo background. Trey Windhorst, the rodeo announcer, has been doing it for 10 years, used to ride bulls. But when that didn't work out, he grabbed the mic at a jackpot team roping event. The rest is history.

"I started getting hired to do amateur shows, worked up to pro-am and now professionally. I have a good 35 weekends booked," Windhorst said. "This is my old stomping grounds. I used to come to Fort Myers Beach during spring break."

Troy Lerwill, the rodeo clown, has been around for 26 years, with a resume that included not just bull fighting, but BMX racing, which he also did professionally for six years.

"When you start losing your edge as a bullfighter with age, you move into the comedy part, which I did both of for years," Lerwill said. "The promoter told me if I could be funny, I could make more money. That was the motivation."

Lerwill, who does his own stunts, used his cycling experience during his clown act as he performed a jump while pretending he couldn't ride, thus earning the nickname "Wild Child" while being named Clown of the Year numerous times.

Put it all together and you have a top-notch event that people who had never been to a rodeo said they would come to again.

"We have friends who live in Cape Coral who we came to visit. We came and we loved it," said Bud Keefer, who was vacationing from Pennsylvania. "I loved the bull riding. I definitely want to do this again."

"It was my first and I loved it," said T.C. Crews of Cape Coral, who came wife his wife and stepson. "I liked how those bullfighters were running from the bulls. I would love to be a rodeo clown."

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