Sports

Thunderbird Pro Rodeo: Kitsap County's littlest clown set for big stage

Wyatt Grahn, 12, an incoming seventh-grader at Ridgetop Junior High School, is the featured clown for the Thunderbird Pro Benefit Rodeo, which returns to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds for the sixth year Friday through Sunday. - Wesley Remmer/staff photo
Wyatt Grahn, 12, an incoming seventh-grader at Ridgetop Junior High School, is the featured clown for the Thunderbird Pro Benefit Rodeo, which returns to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds for the sixth year Friday through Sunday.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photo

Twelve-year-old Wyatt Grahn stands 4 feet, 9 inches tall, weighs 82 pounds and will spend his weekend trapped in a ring with snot-blowing bulls — irritating them.

Grahn is the featured clown for the Thunderbird Pro Benefit Rodeo, which returns to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds for the sixth time Friday through Sunday.

This is his second appearance at a professional rodeo event, but it’s his first pro stop in Kitsap County.

“I can’t wait,” said Grahn, a soon-to-be seventh-grader at Ridgetop Junior High School. “This is my home arena, so I really want to put on a good show for the crowd.”

Grahn is believed to be the youngest clown to ever lead the show at Thunderbird. His job is simple: Entertain the crowd while keeping the cowboys safe.

To keep the fans’ attention Grahn will perform skits and tell jokes, some planned and others off the cuff. Without giving away too many secrets, Grahn said the audience can expect Tiger Woods jokes, as well as a skit referencing Hannah Montana, the popular television series.

He also comes to the arena equipped with golf clubs and lassos and plans to put both to use.

“I get a feel for the crowd and how they are reacting,” Grahn said of how he determines what to do and when.

Grahn is at his best during slow moments on the floor, the times when the crowd isn’t preoccupied with the competition. That’s when he pulls out the props and begins interacting with the fans.

What some may not know about Grahn is that he is quiet away from the rodeo scene.

“It’s funny because he’s not super outgoing in general,” said his father, Raymond Grahn. “But when he gets out there, he pulls out these one-liners and has a way to get the crowd rolling.”

The young clown comes from a rodeo family. His father was a clown for a brief time before becoming a firefighter, and his 16-year-old sister, Madison, has particpated in rodeo events as well.

Wyatt Grahn has been a clown for a couple years, starting on the junior rodeo circuit and working his way up. His lone appearance at a professional event came when he was 11 years old at a rodeo in Port Angeles.

For that reason, the Thunderbird event will be particularly special.

“We’re going to give him a chance and see how he does,” said volunteer rodeo producer Dan Crook.

Raymond Grahn will be on the arena floor with his son for the duration of the rodeo, providing moral support and a helping hand in the event something goes wrong.

That doesn’t mean the junior clown isn’t fully capable — and confident.

Crook hasn’t decided whether Wyatt Grahn will remain on the floor for the bull-riding events, but Raymond Grahn said his son will be ready.

The junior high student, who says he hopes to join the professional circuit when he’s older, already has experience around bulls. He remembers one competition when an angry bull charged and forced him to jump in the protective barrel, which the bull knocked over.

“He wasn’t very happy with me,” Wyatt Grahn said. “He just came after me and all I could do was try to get out of there.”

For mother Valerie Grahn, watching her son dodge bucking broncos and bulls can be nerve-wracking. She said she is confident in his ability, but as a mother, it’s impossible to ignore the danger.

“I don’t know all that much about it, so I just tell him to run if he gets in trouble,” she said.

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