There’s a few people around that can literally tell the people they meet in their travels that, “it’s not their first rodeo.” Matt Merritt is one of those people and you have to laugh when he says it, because making people laugh is part of his job. 

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Merritt is a professional rodeo clown who travels across the country. A fan favorite at the Folsom Pro Rodeo,  he loves the energy at Folsom as much as they love the energy he brings when he steps into Dan Russell Arena.

A native of  Olin, North Carolina, Merritt has seen just about everything that a professional rodeo clown can see in his career. He has been in the business for over 20 years, traveled to different countries and has performed in nearly every state throughout America.

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During any rodeo, there are many animals and people competing. Since animals, as well as humans can often be unpredictable when they work together, it often takes a lot of time to orchestrate a show. 

Inevitably, something will fall behind on the schedule and produce a little extra “down time” throughout the night. That’s when Merritt steps in to bring everyone up during the down and put life into what otherwise could be dead air.

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“My job is to fill those dead spaces and entertain people,” says Merritt. “I tell jokes, do a skit or act or dance. It can be many different things. It’s a lot of fun but it can be challenging. You’ve got to keep it fresh.”

When Merritt first came to Folsom a few years ago, he had heard of the Folsom Pro Rodeo and how big it is with huge crowds and he wanted to see it for himself. He was surely impressed with Folsom and immediately came back for another year, and another, another after then and even more. 

Merritt rolls into town this week for three days of pulling new shenanigans out of his hat. Whatever he brings to the arena during the sold out event is sure to provide plenty of belly laughs to all in the crowd.

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To prepare for his profession, Merritt often goes online to sites such as Wikipedia to do research on a community, along with local news site to see what is relative to the time of his visit.

“I will look up and research anything that will make the audience feel special,” Merritt said. “If you live in (the Bay), I may do something with the Warriors. If it’s in Chicago, I’ll do something with the Cubs. I look for things that relate to where I am going. It is unique everywhere I go.”

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When it comes to Folsom, one of Merritt’s favorite aspects of the event is the crowd it draws.

“I’ve never been to Folsom when the rodeo wasn’t at capacity or close to it,” he said. “My job is to entertain, so I want to see a big audience, and that’s what I get when I come to Folsom. Folsom is a hot spot.”

Aside from entertaining, Merritt’s favorite event during the rodeo is bull riding because of the inherent danger of it.

“I have been around it so long, so I see the details that go into it,” Merritt said. “There is a lot of technicality in it and to see it done right is awesome. In bull riding, the crowd seems to be really into it also. It is human nature that if you see someone doing something dangerous, you get excited.”

While Merritt is in town, he also explores. During his very first stint in Folsom he paid a visit to the Folsom State Prison and reenacted the famous photo featuring Johnny Cash out front, an image that will long be remembered. Merritt also loves the dining fare that the city has to offer.

“One thing I like about Folsom is the good, clean food. I live in North Carolina, so when I come to California I eat much healthier and it always makes me feel good,” he said.

While Merritt will be turning up smiles starting Saturday night, other rodeo events will churn up the small but action-packed arena, including bull riding, bronc riding, barrel racing and more in a must-see event.

“This rodeo is a nice slice of Americana,” says Merritt. “If you don’t know anything about rodeo and have never been, I challenge to give it a try because of the form of entertainment it offers.”

All three days of the 62nd Folsom Pro Rodeo are now sold out. However, through Wednesday you can enter to win tickets from Folsom Times. Just visit www.folsomtimes.com and look for the image of Folsom Times co-founder, better known as Uncle Sam of the Folsom Pro Rodeo and read how to enter. You can also find the information on our Facebook and Instagram pages, but act fast!

Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan