Reno Rodeo History
Welcome Rodeo Fans to the “Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West!”
The “Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West,” the Reno Rodeo is a 10-day event. The Reno Rodeo is a PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) sanctioned sporting event. Reno Rodeo is a non-profit organization made up of almost 1000 volunteers. Over 140,000 fans will be in attendance for the 4th richest PRCA tour rodeo. The event impacts the Reno/Sparks area economy with $42 million going to hotels, casinos, restaurants, and retail. The Reno Rodeo has been nationally televised on CBS Sports, Fox Sports Net, Versus, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic.
Countdown to 100
With our 100th anniversary approaching quickly we thought it would be good time to remind our members of some of the history and traditions of the Reno Rodeo. So, we will be bringing you a little history in every issue of the BullSheet. Most of the information will be extracted from Guy Clifton’s book, “A History – The First 80 Years”. As we get closer, we may even try to get some of our long-standing members to tell us their stories.
By 1993, the Reno Rodeo Association had clearly found a winning formula, but members weren’t about to sit back and rest on their past accomplishments. Proven winners like the cattle drive and the LamaVision screens were tweaked to make them a little better and yet another new event was added – the Nevada All-Around Working Cowhorse Championship. The winner would receive cash prizes and a beautiful custom saddle made by Fallon’s Gary Capurro. Added to the LamaVision was a screen that featured American Sign Language interpreters translating the commentary of rodeo announcers Bob Tallman and Bob Feist for the hearing impaired. The cattle drive from Doyle included the usual 50 cowpokes driving a herd of 300 cattle to the rodeo grounds, but this year, about 50 of the cattle were taken downtown and driven up Virginia Street under the Reno arch.
More that 70 local businesses participated in a “Catch the Western Spirit” competition, decorating their businesses and encouraging employees to dress in a western theme. The winner was Fleet Mortgage of Reno, which created an Old West town within their office, complete with hitching post, train station, train tracks, Jail, school house, banks and more. Reno Rodeo Association president Jon Key and rodeo queen Angie McEwan presented all the employees with tickets to the rodeo.
The rodeo parade honored John Ascuaga as the grand marshal, recognizing his quarter century of support of the rodeo. “I think a lot of the rodeo,” Ascuaga told the Gazette-Journal. “I don’t think people realize it’s one of the greatest rodeos in the world.”
Thousands lined Virginia Street for the annual parade to kick off rodeo week. Several concerts and casino performances were also country themed to go along with the rodeo. They included performances by Tanya Tucker, Paul Overstreet, Juice Newton, Lacy J. Dalton and Doug Kershaw, among others.
The rodeo also marked the return of the professional women barrel racers, who had held out of the Reno Rodeo six of the previous eight years because of a dispute over prize money. “The cowgirls are thrilled to be back at Reno,” said Linda Clark of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. “We want to be included in every rodeo, especially one with the prestige and purse that Reno offers.”
The Exceptional Rodeo – which featured pro cowboys, clowns and rodeo association volunteers helping give mentally and physically handicapped children a taste of rodeo – returned for its ninth consecutive year and was expanded from one performance to two, opening the event to twice as many children as in the past. Each of the children received hats, bandanas, belt buckles and other prizes.
The bull riding was once again the marquee event of the rodeo with the great champions like Ted Nuce, Ty Murray, Tuff Hedeman and Jim Sharp all in the competition. In the end, it was Sharp who would prevail for the title.
Rod Lyman, a bulldogger and roper, won the all-around title. Other champions included Rich Skelton and Tee Woolman in team roping, Sharon Kobold in barrel racing, Kyle Wemple in saddle bronc, Winston Frey in steer wrestling and Larry Sandvick in the bareback.
Attendance was estimated to be 73,873, a rise of 3,000 over 1992. On average , the rodeo sold 94 percent of the available tickets for the nine-performance program, first vice president David Cox told the Gazette-Journal.
The Reno Rodeo Association opened the 1990s by taking a giant step forward. At the same time it dipped 60 years into the past. In moving forward, the rodeo association became one of the all-male organizations in the area to admit women members. Pam Froemke, Loretta Ament, Julie Petrini and Pat Murphy were introduced as the first female members of the organization. “Some of the members weren’t too tickled with it,” Bob Britton, the 1990 Reno Rodeo Association told the Reno-Gazette Journal. “ But (the women) always helped anyway.”
This was also the first year the rodeo association held a cattle drive, starting in Doyle, California, and finishing at the rodeo grounds. The drive featured stock to be used in the rodeo. The five-day drive was organized by Allen Capurro and John Davies. After entering the city limits the drive went down Wedekind Road to Sutro Street and on to the rodeo grounds. The cattle drive was believed to be the first drive of its size into Reno in at least 60 years.
The Reno Rodeo Parade of 1990 featured five high school bands, 11 drill teams, five groups of draft horses and plenty of politicians. More than 20,000 spectators lined the streets downtown to watch the parade.
Defending all-around champion Ty Murray was signed up for the rodeo, but wasn’t at full strength after chipping a bone in his elbow a few weeks earlier at a rodeo in Redding, California. All of the defending champions were back for the rodeo and in pursuit of the $311,000 in prize money. In all, more than 800 cowboys and cowgirls were signed up for the event. The rodeo queen was Fernley’s Cathy Cagliari, who did double duty as a competitor in the women’s barrel racing. She ended up as the barrel racing champion.
The star of the show was bull rider Jim Sharp, who capped a great week by riding Ram Tough Skoal for 80 points and his Reno Rodeo title in five tries.
Clint Corey won his third consecutive bareback riding title, and Murray, chipped elbow and all, was the saddle bronc champion.
Two participants in the rodeo were injured, though neither was a competitor. Announcer Bob Tallman dislocated his left hip and shoulder after falling from a horse while demonstrating saddle bronc riding techniques. Rodeo clown Lecille Harris was in the hospital after a bull smashed him into the arena fence. The two were roommates at Washoe Medical Center and reportedly kept the hospital staff in stitches during their recoveries.
The record attendance in 1988 had the Reno Rodeo Association immediately planning expansion of the rodeo arena. Steve Walther, 1989 president, announced the seating would be expanded by up to 2,000 seats in time for the 1989 rodeo.
By the time it was done, more than $800,000 improvements were made, the funding coming from rodeo association and the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority. Seating was expanded to 8,500 and two new scoreboards and sound system were installed.
The 1989 parade featured grand marshal Mickey Gilley, the country singer, and several thousand people lined the streets of downtown Reno to watch the annual event, which included 250 floats, bands and dignitaries. The legendary Casey Tibbs was the honorary grand marshal. Other Rodeo Week events included the buckaroo breakfast, chili cook-off, gunfighters and country concerts.
A special event during the rodeo competition was the Joe Marvel Challenge and featured Marvel, always a crowd favorite at the Reno Rodeo, and Elko’s Rick Smith in a challenge ride in saddle bronc. Both great cowboys were in the twilight of their rodeo careers and the Reno Rodeo Association set up the challenge as a sort of tribute to the two. “They set this thing up for us just because we’re local cowboys,” Marvel told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It was a nice thing for them to do.” Smith wound up winning the contest.
In the championship events, Clint Corey came from well back in the field to win the bareback competition after scoring an 85 on Cotton Rosser’s horse Madonna. Other champions included Harry Rose in saddle bronc, Jeff McGary in the bull riding, Dan Russell in steer wrestling, Rabe Rabon in calf roping and Mark Arnold and Ricky Green in team roping. Martha Josey won the barrel racing.
A 19-year-old cowboy from Odessa, Texas named Ty Murray was named the all-around champion. Murray, on his way to his first of seven world all-around championship, finished third. In the saddle bronc, but was more disappointed because he was bucked off in the bull riding. “I could have had a wheelbarrow full of money,” he told the Gazette-Journal.
Murray wasn’t finished at the Reno Rodeo. Not by a long shot.
In 1988, for the first time in four years, professional women’s barrel racers returned to Reno. Charmayne James, the three-time defending world champion, picked up right where she left off in 1984. Riding her horse, Scamper, James raced to a dominating victory.
James’ performance was one of the highlights of the wildly successful 1988 rodeo, which drew a record 55,000 spectators to the six-day event. Grant Dalen was the rodeo association president and Teri Trimble the queen. The grand marshal of the parade was Wilford Brimley, the veteran actor who starred in the film “Cocoon.” Brimley, a rancher, showed off his roping skills in a demonstration of team roping with stock contractor Cotton Rosser. The Budweiser Clydesdales were back as a main attraction of the rodeo parade.
Brad Gjdermundson repeated his championship in the saddle bronc competition. Other 1988 champions included Clint Corey in bareback, Hall of Famer Ote Berry in steer wrestling, Rod Currin in calf roping, and Tuff Hedeman and Joe
Wimberly in bull riding. The team roping champions were Allen Bach and Matt Tyler.
Charlie Sampson, the world bull riding champion in 1982, was injured during the rodeo. A bull named Rambo bucked off Sampson and then stepped on him, severing his left ear. The ear was reaffixed by a plastic surgeon at Washoe Medical Center. The incident drew national attention. Despite Sampson’s injury, the event was deemed a huge success.
After the event, the Reno Gazette-Journal ran an editorial with the headline: “Rodeo in Reno: Nobody does it better than us.” The editorial said in part: “If rodeo is, as critics claim, and irrelevant social anomaly, that can’t be proved by pointing to the 51st edition of the Reno Rodeo. With the nation’s best rodeo athletes in competition for $365,000 in prize money, Reno last week was offering up one of the nation’s three largest rodeos. And the crowds loved it. Attendance records tumbled as 55,000 spectators turned out for this year’s six-day event.”
In 1987, the rodeo celebrated the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Reno Rodeo and Livestock Association, which was formed in 1937 by Charles Sadleir and others to keep the rodeo as an annual event. The Rodeo and Livestock Association also terminated its legal existence because of restrictions in its own charter. It was reorganized as the Reno Rodeo Association, a non-stock, non-profit corporation. The mission of the newly formed organization was to give scholarships and grants to worthy individuals and causes.
The president for the 50th anniversary celebration was Bob Beach and the rodeo queen was Natalie Prupas. Young children were able to participate in the grand entry that year in what called the “Stick Horse Grand Entry.” It wasn’t only kids who participated, though. Beach, and fellow association officers Grant Dalen, Steve Walther, Alan Kingsley and John Solari were all introduced at the grand entry while riding stick horses into the arena.
The parade was billed as the biggest in the history of the rodeo and featured trick roper Monte Montana and Richard “Bugs” Hi