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January 2017

A saddle bronc rider holds on during the 1942 rodeo.
A saddle bronc rider holds on during the 1942 rodeo. 
World War II was in full swing in 1942 and Reno wanted to do its part to aid the war effort. The rodeo was moved from the Fourth of July to Labor Day and proceeds from the event were earmarked for war relief. The rodeo was limited to amateur competitors and the purse was $800. Jack Story, nationally known announcer from Hollywood, was retained for the event.

The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe had a special role in the 1942 as the Nevada State Journal reported in its September 5, 1942 edition:

“Pyramid Lake Indians participating in Reno’s War Relief Rodeo over the Labor Day weekend have a very special reason for wanting to aid the services – 22 of them are in the Army, Navy, Marines or Air Corps.

“ Among the Indian casualties from the area so far are Karl Foley, missing in the Philippines and Ralph Sams, killed in a bomber crash. So the boys left behind at Pyramid will be giving their all to put on a show and help war relief.” A group of 45 Indians in full regalia led the grand entry for the parade. Tribal members also presented a pageant at the El Patio Ballroom and a pow wow at Wingfield Park.

Among the buckaroos competing were Glen Spoon, Walt Mason, George McGinnis, Harry Drackert, Wilbur Plaugher, Cliff Devine and Slim Pickens, who would go on to become a well-known Hollywood actor.

The rodeo earned $7,000 for war relief, with funds going to the Army, Navy, USO, Red Cross and other local charitable organizations. Ed Davis was named the all-around cowboy and was awarded with a $25 war bond. Davis won the calf roping. Jack Richardson and Levi Frazier took top honors in the wild cow milking. Bill Ramsey won the saddle bronc and Ray Ferreto won bareback.

The Nevada State Journal also noted the death of Will James, western artist and writer who had designed the first-ever Reno Rodeo poster.

The 1943 rodeo was moved back to the Fourth of July. It was limited once again to amateur cowboys, who put on a strong show for the capacity crowd. The Nevada State Journal reported: The crowd, which was so large on Sunday that several customers were turned away at the gate, and which filled the stands so full that one of the bleachers collapsed, sat for three and a half hours and watched 57 amateur cowboys put on a first-class and spectacular performance.”

Gus Bartley of Reno, riding a horse named Denio, won the bronc riding. Fred Gansberg of Gardnerville won the cow riding competition, and Buck Bain of Las Vegas and Slim Gillian of Lovelock won the ream roping. Joe Richardson of Reno was the calf roping champion.

The stories for the Count Down to 100 are excerpts from “A History – The First 80 Years” by Guy Clifton.

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