Spurs & Mud: A Century of Rodeo

The Reno Rodeo began with ranch hands competing against one another as a way to bring the community together after WWI. It has transformed into a juggernaut event for the area, celebrating everything western. The 100-year history of the Reno Rodeo is rich and sometimes complicated, which has left a lasting impact on Northern Nevada. What has the rodeo looked like in the past? What are the attitudes on animal care and riders’ safety now? Does the Reno Rodeo still have a place in modern Nevada culture? Find out more through our series, “Spurs and Mud: A Century of Rodeo.”

Mick Hicks

1983 was a tough year for Reno’s LGBTQ+ community.

The AIDS epidemic had reached Nevada. And the Gay Rodeo was facing a stronger threat of violence than in years past. An article from the Reno Evening Gazette said that anonymous telephone calls to Reno’s three main television stations warned that snipers were poised to shoot attendees.

Despite threats on multiple fronts, the event was one of the few times that being openly gay was generally accepted in the Biggest Little City. 

A woman in a white cowboy hat stands next to a white and brown horse.
Holly Hutchings

The Reno Rodeo wrapped up its centennial anniversary last weekend. Though the cultural history of the event is alive and 100 years strong, animal rights groups question if this sport is abusive to animals and if it's still acceptable in today’s society. Holly Hutchings has this report.

I was one of three KUNR reporters who recently graduated from a clown class taught by the Reno Rodeo’s new barrelman and rodeo clown, John Harrison. I spent the class taking photos and laughing with--and at--my colleagues. The class consisted of learning how to put clown makeup on, what it’s like to be in a barrel in the arena, and what it takes to entertain a crowd.

A man in a red shirt and cowboy hat is grabbing surgical bandages.
Holly Hutchings

The Reno Rodeo has ended, and some of the athletes are already headed to their next competitions. Injuries from these events can leave riders with lasting impacts, physically and emotionally, as they move forward. KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck has more.

Holly Hutchings

Kathleen Brannon is a beadwork artist living in Spanish Springs who set up shop at the Reno Rodeo's marketplace last week, which was home to about 100 vendors and artists. She talked with KUNR's Holly Hutchings about her craft and her business.

Holly Hutchings

The Reno Rodeo Foundation, the charitable arm of the local rodeo, has been busy granting wishes for sick kids and their families. Holly Hutchings witnessed a few of the surprises and has this report.

Reno Rodeo 100: Living Near The Horses

Jun 28, 2019
Man smiles in front of camera. He is wearing a cowboy hat.
Jessi LeMay

The Reno Rodeo 100 is a multimedia storytelling series wherein people connected to the event have shared intimate, up close tales from the rodeo during open mic events and as part of more in-depth interviews with rodeo documentarians. In this excerpt, Bill Richards describes what it was like living in a tack room. He also reflects on how he was mesmerized by the first Reno Rodeo that he attended in 1947.

A boy in a cowboy hat looks at sheep.
Lucia Starbuck

Mutton bustin’ is one of the Reno Rodeo’s most popular events. It involves children clinging onto the backs of sheep and trying to hang on, as long as possible. KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck explores what this sport means to those involved.

Reno Rodeo 100: Caring For A Hurt Calf

Jun 27, 2019
A man in a plaid shirt hold a mic as he tells the story of hurt calf during rodeo season.
Jessi LeMay

The Reno Rodeo 100 is a multimedia storytelling series wherein people connected to the event have shared intimate, up-close tales from the rodeo during open mic events and as part of more in-depth interviews with rodeo documentarians. In this excerpt, one former rodeo director, Dr. Joseph Eberle, recalls a time when a hurt calf got some very special medical treatment.

Reno Rodeo 100: Rain In The Arena

Jun 26, 2019
A black and white image of one of the first years of the Reno Rodeo.
Jessi LeMay

The Reno Rodeo 100 is a multimedia storytelling series commemorating the event’s 100th anniversary. This excerpt brings us attendees Harrie and Karl Baker, who describe how rodeo rides on, even when storms roll in. In this story, an undeterred barrel racer had to overcome not just heavy rains, but a surprise visit from a drunk spectator.

Man looks away from camera. He has a cowboy hat on.
Jessi LeMay

The Reno Rodeo 100 is a multimedia storytelling series commemorating the event’s 100th anniversary. In this excerpt, Brett Scheerer from Businessman’s Steer Decorating, remembers a time when a poor soul lost his pants...at the Reno Rodeo. He shared the comical tale at an open mic night.

A woman is on a horse. A dog is next to her.
Lucia Starbuck

While the Reno Rodeo is just in town this month, local athletes are practicing year-round. And as KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck reports, even though women have been competing in rodeos close to 70 years, their opportunities to compete remain limited. 

Reno Rodeo 100: 'Woman In Labor!'

Jun 24, 2019
Lucia Starbuck

The Reno Rodeo 100 is a multimedia storytelling series commemorating the event’s 100th anniversary. In this excerpt, Julianna Waller recounts the story of her sister’s birth - and how it almost happened at the event one year. She shared her story from the rodeo grounds. 

A woman holds a camera.
Lucia Starbuck

To celebrate and capture the history of the Reno Rodeo's 100th anniversary, multimedia storyteller Jessi LeMay has interviewed more than 75 individuals about their memories of this Western event. She’s talked to cowboys, competitors, queens and everyone in between for the project she's created, Reno Rodeo 100. She spoke with KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck about the project.

A man in a white cowboy hat speaks into a mic.
Jessi LeMay

The Reno Rodeo kicked off this week for its 100th year. KUNR is covering the anniversary with several stories, including excerpts from a multimedia project called Reno Rodeo 100. For the project, locals have been sharing their memories of the rodeo during open mic nights. They include Guy Clifton, who has written a book about the event’s history. Today, he explains how the rodeo first began a century ago.

A man in a black shirt, with black glasses and a grey goatee, stands in front of a large photo of a jumping horse.
Lucia Starbuck

Former journalist and current history buff Guy Clifton covered the Reno Rodeo for two decades and wrote a book on the event’s first 80 years. He’s teamed up with the Nevada Historical Society to showcase parts of the event’s history in a new exhibit. He spoke with KUNR’s Holly Hutchings about some of the unknown nuggets he’s discovered from years of research and reporting on this cultural staple.