The Reno Rodeo meant the world to Ray Peterson and Ray Peterson meant the world to the Reno Rodeo.
Peterson, a longtime supporter of the event, took over as president the Reno Rodeo and Livestock Association in 1950 and held the position for 12 tears. Those years just happened to be when the rodeo was the city’s greatest celebration, bringing thousands of visitors and the world’s top cowboys to town, for the Fourth of July festivities.
“He was a wonderful, wonderful man,” said his friend Harry Parker, himself a longtime supporter and owner of Parker’s Western Wear in downtown Reno. “The rodeo wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for him.”
Peterson was born in San Francisco in 1896 and, as a child, accompanied his father to Nevada to work mining claims near Walker Lake. In 1917, he moved to Reno and worked as a farmhand for the University of Nevada. He delivered newspapers to supplement his income. In the late 1920’s he started a long career in the lumber, first working for Jesse Smith Lumber Company, then founding his own company a few years later.
All the while, he was involved with the Reno Rodeo.
An avid horseman, he rod in every Reno Rodeo parade until his death in 1979. He was inducted into the Nevada Horseman’s Hall of Fame in 1990.
His sons, Bob and Ray, Jr., grew up on the rodeo grounds and shared in their father’s love for the Reno Rodeo.
Bob Peterson served as president of the Reno Rodeo Association in 1971, carrying on the family legacy.
In addition to his lifelong support of the rodeo, Ray Peterson also served on the Reno City Council and the Washoe County Commission.
“He was just a real community leader,” said Reno’s Link Piazzo, who served as a rodeo director when Peterson was association president. “He was one of the most wonderful people I ever knew.”