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April 2018

Reno businessman Chick Bennett was in full Western regalia for the 1958 rodeo.
Reno businessman Chick Bennett was in full Western regalia for the 1958 rodeo. 

In 1958, the Reno Rodeo Association was celebrating its 25th anniversary. Ray Peterson was again the president and Jack Horgan was in charge of the parade. Glenn Ford was again the winner of the Silver Spurs Award and this time was in Reno to receive the honor. Lieutenant Governor Rex Bell was the grand marshal of the parade once again.Gayle Shipley Newman, the 1957 Reno Rodeo Queen, handed off the title to Betty Chism.

For the first time, a reined stock horse competition was added, and competitors included Tom Marvel of Battle Mountain, Frank Borges, Marvin Jones, Don Porney and Lee Revorse, among others.

The 1958 rodeo belonged to Texan Harry Tompkins, a multiple world champion in bull riding and all-around. Tompkin won the bareback and bull riding competitions and was named the all-around champion. Tompkins was interviewed for the 50th anniversary of the Reno Rodeo and said he still had his championship saddle for winning the all-around. Other winners in 1958 included Marty Wood in saddle bronc, Guy Weeks in calf roping and Carl Mendes in steer wrestling. The team roping champions were Hall of Famers Gene Rambo and John Rodriguez, Jr. Gordon Frazier of Nixon, a cousin to the great roper Levi Frazier, won the Nevada saddle bronc competition. More than $22,000 in prize money was distributed.

In 1959, the Reno Evening Gazette put out a special section dedicated to the rodeo, explaining the various events, rodeo-specific terms and even the hand signals used buy the judges. The rodeo drew fans from around the country. Ted McDonald Productions of Hollywood filmed the rodeo for distribution to more than 300 television stations around the world. The Silver Spurs Award was presented to Fred MacMurry and the footage of the presentation was to be rushed to Hollywood for immediate distribution throughout the country.

Lieutenant Governor Rex Bell led the parade and visitors crowded the streets. A float sponsored by Harrahs featured figure skating champion Gloria Nord, who performed pirouettes and figure eights on the moving float. It was announced that champion cowboys would receive silver belt buckles donated by Newt Crumley. Nancy Vogt was the rodeo queen.

Gerald Davis won the steer wresting and the all-around championship. Harley May was saddle bronc champion, Bob Maynard won the bull riding and Buddy Peak took the bareback title. Bronc Curry and Dale Smith captured the team roping title and Bucky McCullar was the calf roping champion. The Nevada saddle bronc champion was John Welch of Battle Mountain.

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

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