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Reno Kids Learn To Rope & Ride

Holly Hutchings
Kids turn cowboys and cowgirls at a Kids Rodeo, put on by the Reno Rodeo Foundation in conjunction with Artown.

The Reno Rodeo is now in its 99th year. On top of the organization's ten-day annual event, the group also aims to pass down skills and Western culture to the next generation. This year, they partnered with Artown to hold their first-ever kids' rodeo and storytelling event. Our reporter Holly Hutchings was there.

Normally at Wingfield Park, kids play in the river or snack on a picnic while they take in a concert or play. But tonight the park is a rodeo.

Credit Holly Hutchings
Youth volunteer Journey Reynolds leads a younger cowgirl in barrel racing at Wingfield Park.

Smaller children are guided by more experienced participants, like Journey Reynolds. She’s eleven years old and a member of the Sierra Nevada Junior Rodeo & Gymkhana Club. She is coaching a dozen preschoolers in barrel racing, making figure eights around three miniature red, white and blue barrels.

“Then, we’ll go straight home. Run home! I am! Whoohoo, we did it! We won. Give me a high five. Awesome! Good job, baby. You got a ribbon.”

Groups of toddlers and grade schoolers hop on stick horses and run another course, pole bending. They weave in and out of four tall sticks arranged in a line, trying not to hit the stick as they snake through. And next to that there’s steer roping to perfect lasso skills.

Journey has been around the rodeo much of her short life.

“Rodeo means everything in my life," she said. "I grew up with this, and it’s definitely something...I want to stick with one horse my whole entire life and I never want to leave her. Eventually, I will, but I don’t want to, so it just means everything to me.”

Storytelling is another tradition of ranch and cowboy life. The kids here learn to tell a compelling tale that keeps those around the fire riveted, not only picking up this skill through the spoken word but also through campfire songs, like this one sung by Tex Weir.

Credit Holly Hutchings
Singer and storyteller Tex Weir rests before his performance at the kids' rodeo. Weir has taught songs to children in Washoe County for nearly 20 years.

When it’s nighttime in Nevada, I’m dreaming of the old days on the prairies and you. I miss you when the campfires are gleaming, and I’m wondering if you miss me, too.

Tex Weir is a native of Texas but has called Nevada home for many years. He taught music in schools around the valley.

“Cowboys, like Shakespeare, loved the comedies or the tragedies," he said. "What I hope to do is someday the kids will learn to sing all these songs and they’ll pass them on to theirs.”

He comes from a family of frontiersmen and loves to share the adventures of the old West.

“The folk music of America not only teaches music, but it teaches the culture of America and a lot of good values, too. Plus, some of it is just fun.”

Clara Andriola is the executive director of the Reno Rodeo Foundation, the charitable arm of the rodeo that put on this event. She agrees that the cowboy way of life can teach athleticism and more.

Credit Holly Hutchings
Clara Andriola of the Reno Rodeo Foundation enjoys the music of Tex Weir at a recent kids rodeo event, put on by the foundation and Artown.

“You know, ranching is the history of who we are in Northern Nevada," Andriola said. "And being out, whether it’s on a horse or sitting and participating in a kid’s rodeo and enjoying everything, it doesn’t have to be related to technology. And I think we’ve lost the ability for children, for their mind to go to places of true creativity. Rodeo and Western heritage is really filled with art.” 

Credit Holly Hutchings
Children paint a mural during the event in Wingfield Park.

Artown estimates that this inaugural event welcomed 1,000 visitors. Organizers hope to come back again next year.

As a note of disclosure, KUNR is a media sponsor of Artown.

Holly Hutchings is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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