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February 2018

A cowboy hangs on during the bareback competition at the 1954 rodeo.
A cowboy hangs on during the bareback competition at the 1954 rodeo. 

The 1954 rodeo saw quite a stir when Bobo Rockefeller and her 5-year-old son, Winnie, attended the opening day of the event. Rockefeller was in the area to establish her residency in order to get a divorce from her husband, New York millionaire Winthrop Rockefeller. The Nevada State Journal reported photographers tried to take pictures of Mrs. Rockefeller and her son, but “Police Chief L. R. Greeson threatened them with jail if they did, citing s city ordinance that a person’s picture may not be taken without permission.” Mrs. Rockefeller was the guest of Charles Mapes, Jr., owner of the Mapes Hotel and longtime supporter of the Reno Rodeo.

The rodeo was once again billed as “the world’s richest” with a purse of $20,000 put up for the cowboys. Once again the Chamber of Commerce put out a call to homeowners to make rooms available for rent. “ It is expected the city will set an all-time high as a popular place for spending the Fourth of July weekend, and the influx of tourists and rodeo fans is threatening to swamp transient accommodations all over Reno and Sparks and the surrounding areas,” the Nevada State Journal reported. Governor Charles Russell led the parade. Pat Deaton was the rodeo queen.

Lawson Fore won the steer wrestling and took the all-around title. Jim Shoulders won the Bull riding and Casey Tibbs the saddle bronc title.

An eight-section parade, led by Lt. Gov. Rex Bell, the former movie star, highlighted the opening of the 1955 Reno Rodeo. The Chamber of Commerce predicted more than 26,000 visitors would be in Reno for the Fourth of July weekend. Wilford Cline was the stock contractor and A. E. Holgate the arena director. The Reno Rodeo Queen was Pat Martin of Gardnerville and the announcer was Bud Bentley. One of the judges for the rodeo was Cotton Rosser, who also competed in the team roping despite the fact that hi right leg was in a cast.

Among the competitors was cowgirl Sammy Fancher Hart, who competed in steer wrestling along with her father, Sam Fancher of Las Vegas. Harley May, the Hall of Fame bulldogger, won that event, and the all-around title.

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

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