In 1947, the Reno Rodeo saw its first great tragedy when 24-year-old bull rider Bill Brendler of Modesto was killed during the finals. The young buckaroo fell directly beneath the bull and was kicked in the head, suffering a crushed skull. Brendler’s death is the only documented fatality in the history of the Reno Rodeo.
Despite the fatality, the Reno Rodeo was a huge affair for Reno. Rex Stuart, the veteran cowboy actor, was the grand marshal of the parade, and the top cowboys of the day were once again participating. Ty Cobb, the well-known Nevada State Journal newsman, covered the event for his newspaper. “Record smashing attendance of 10,000 spectators sent the 1947 three-day Reno Rodeo off to a flying start amid the color and glamour of this typical all-western show,” Cobb reported. “All the familiar highlights of the rodeo – snorting broncs, daring riders, droll clowns – were featured as the ‘Greatest Show in the West’ opened its first day’s activities at the Reno racetrack grounds.”
Bud Linderman was again the all-around champion, edging calf roper Clay Carr for the title. Buster Ivory won the saddle bronc, Orrie Dooley the bull riding, Wallace Brooks the bareback, and Homer, once again, the steer wrestling. Rod Kelly was the Nevada bronc riding champion.
The 1948 rodeo was a three-day affair with $15,000 in prize money, which organizers said was the most of any of the Fourth of July rodeos being held throughout the west. Stock contractor Harry Rowell brought his top bucking horse and bulls, includi9ng the famed bucking bull Spot, which had been featured on the cover of Life magazine. The announcer for the rodeo was Jim Jordan, who had worked such events as the world championships at Madison Square Gardens and the giant rodeos at Houston and Fort Worth. Providing entertainment was Monte Montana and his troupe, and trick riders Bernice Dorsey and Paul and Marie St. Croix. The rodeo queen was Jody Smith. An estimated 21,000 people attend the three-day event.
Gerald Roberts, the world all-around champion from Strong City, Kansas, took the all-around honors in Reno as well, edging Homer Pettigrew, who won the street wrestling and calf roping. Wag Blessing won the bull riding, Duncan Brown the bareback and Bill Ward the saddle bronc.