In 1949, a dispute arose between the professional cowboys and the Reno Rodeo Association that nearly caused the cancellation of the final performance. The cowboys wanted to know whether $4,000 donated by four local clubs was part of the advertised prize money of $8,100, or in addition to that prize money. The dispute delayed the start of the finals 45 minutes, with the Rodeo Association agreeing to add $4,000 to the advertised amount. It was either that or risk losing more than $20,000 in gate receipts for the final show, according to angry Rodeo Association President Howard Doyle, who vowed there would be no more professional rodeos in Reno.
Gerald Roberts repeated as the all-around champion, also taking top honors in bull riding. Wilbur Plaugher, the famed rodeo clown, showed his skill as a competitor as well, winning the saddle bronc title. Buck Wyatt won the bareback, Clay Carr the calf roping and Stan Gomez the steer wrestling. The Nevada saddle bronc champion was again Ed Garaventa, who received #500 from the Holiday Casino, plus a championship buckle from Newman’s Silver Shop, and a set of spurs from Miller and Tietjen Bits and Spurs.
This was the year the Silver Spurs award debuted. Presented by the Chamber of Commerce, the award went to the Hollywood celebrity who helped keep western tradition alive. The first recipients were the legendary John Wayne, and film director John Ford, for their work in “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.”
Despite the threats of the association president, The Reno Rodeo was not finished. In fact, it was just getting started.