Backflip entertains rodeo crowd
By Holly Neumann
The Mid-Western Rodeo is coming to town and part of the show will include the quick-witted entertainment of rodeo clown Backflip Johnny Dudley.
“I love what I do,” Dudley said. “And I love being able to make people of all ages smile.”
Dudley got his start after attending a rodeo where he found the clowns to be interesting.
“They were awesome. So, I decided to check it out,” he said. “I looked into it as just something that I could just play around with.”
Enjoying the experience, he quickly became involved.
“I was lucky enough that the town that I was originally from had a weekly rodeo series,” he said. “I was able to go there and help out a little bit and learned the ropes.”
He went on to say that initially this was only something he did while attending college.
“I started getting small jobs at first,” he said. “And it grew from there. By the time I graduated from college I was doing well enough that I knew this was going to be my full-time job. It has gotten me to where I am today.”
With 15 years of experience under his belt Dudley continues to love what he does.
“I like to travel,” he said. “I don’t like the driving so much, but I love the people. Every week I am with someone different. They all become an extended part of my family.”
His favorite part of his performance is getting in his barrel during the bull riding event.
“Not everyone gets to be in the ring with an angry bull,” he said. “This is the most enjoyable part of my job. I like being in the barrel and I like getting hit by bulls while I am. It’s a highlight of the night for me.”
Without a doubt, this comes with some risks as well.
“Just the other night I got hit so hard in the barrel that I got a concussion,” he said. “I have blown out my knees and even had a bull get his horn in the barrel. It tore my leg up so badly that it required surgery. I have broken my neck once and was even knocked out. It is all just part of the game.”
With that being said, Dudley still feels that the hardest part of his job, is having to be good every single time he performs.
“I have two hours to go out there and do the best job that I can and it gets to be stressful,” he said. “There are so many circumstances that are beyond my control. The weather, the crowd and even the advertising for the event all come into play. The announcer plays a huge part in my success as well. After all, I work hand in hand with them. The rodeo circuit is not that big, I have to be good. Word travels fast if you are not.”
Dudley, otherwise known as Backflip, not only made a name for himself, but a nickname as well.
“Every time I was introduced at an arena I would do a backflip off a barrel or the fencing,” he said. “Sometimes, I will even flip over a bull that is charging me. Everyone started to know me as the guy that does that back flips and it just kind of stuck.”
He chuckles about his younger days.
“I was about 16 years old when I started showing off to the girls by doing backflips at the swimming pool,” he said. “I got good at it and even got to the point where I started doing them off of high things, like the roof of a house. Who would have thought that this talent would turn into a trademark for me?”
He offers these words of wisdom to anyone wishing to become a rodeo clown.
“Get your education first,” Dudley said. “There are not a lot of professional rodeo clowns that can do this as a fulltime job. There are only about 10 of us that do this as a career. Get your degree and have another job ready because this is very difficult.”
He will be making his third performance at the Mid-Western Rodeo.
“This business at the professional level is small. The hard part is getting a job for the first time,” he said. “People don’t want to hire anyone that they have not seen before. Manawa took a chance on me and got me started. I am so glad they did.”
He encourages everyone to visit the Mid-Western Rodeo.
“This show has something for the whole family,” he said. “I don’t care if you 6, 66 or 96, the rodeo is something that everyone can enjoy.”
Opening night of the Mid-Western Rodeo will kick off with family night on Thursday, June 29. Pre-rodeo music will begin at 7 p.m. with the performance following at 7:30 p.m. Fireworks will follow.
Friday night will be Wrangler National Patriot-Military Night with pre-rodeo music will begin at 7 p.m. with the performance following at 7:30 p.m. Fireworks will follow.
Saturday will include the Stampede Fun Run/Walk at Lindsay Park beginning at 7:30 a.m., followed by the annual rodeo parade at 10:30 a.m. and a 2 p.m. Family Day show. A Tough Enough to wear Pink performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. that evening.