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November 2018

Bob Sheppard of Tucson, Arizona, won the bull riding at the Reno Rodeo five times.
Bob Sheppard of Tucson, Arizona, won the bull riding at the Reno Rodeo five times. 

The stars of the 1969 Reno Rodeo parade were the famed Budweiser Clydesdales. Rodeo association president B.M.“Zim ” Zimmerman announced the eight-horse team would be on display throughout the rodeo. Other features of the 1969 show included an expanded Indian pageant, which was extremely popular the year before. “This should be the biggest and best rodeo in Reno’s history,” Zimmerman to the Gazette. “The leading cowboys in the nation are among the record number of cowboys signing up for our competition. Cotton Rosser is providing us with the wildest and wooliest stock on the rodeo circuit.”

Fourteen reigning queens, including Miss Reno Rodeo Virginia Hunter and Miss Rodeo America Patricia Evans, were in attendance.

Tom Flenniken was the all-around champion. Other title winners included Bill Darnell and John Paboojin in team roping, Paul Mayo in bareback, Bob Wiley in calf roping, John Jones in steer wrestling, Bob Berger in bull riding and Fallon’s Patty Thurman in barrel racing.

Battle Mountain rancher Tom Marvel, whose three sons, Mike, Joe and Pete would attain great success on the PRCA circuit in the 1970s won the Nevada Open Stock Horse competition with his horse Cottontail.

The decade closed on a high note. The Reno Rodeo was growing again, in popularity and prominence.

Hollywood came to Reno for the 1970 rodeo as the event returned to the popularity it enjoyed in the 1950s. Among the celebrities converging on Reno were Dennis Hopper of “Easy Rider” fame, Michelle Phillips of the band the Mamas and Papas, Don Everly of the Everly Brothers Band, Slim Pickins the former rodeo clown, Chill Wills, Dean Stockwell and Robert Mitchum. The celebrities appeared at a street dance that was one of the kickoff events of rodeo week. Miss Rodeo America Chris Vincent led a contingent of 17 queens attending the event. The Reno Rodeo queen was Wendy Von Fluee. Jack Horgan was the rodeo association president. The Nevada State Journal ran an editorial with the headline: “Annual Western Event Is Winning Them Again.” The editorial spoke of the dark days of the early 1960s and the ensuing rebound in 1968 and 1969. “So it appears the lean days are a thing of the past – and the Reno Rodeo opening Friday will undoubtedly furnish proof of this. But what provides even more proof is the fact a fourth performance has been scheduled. Heretofore the shows have been held Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Now another performance will be staged on Saturday night.

The top cowboys in the country were signed up. “We are looking forward to the biggest show in the history of the Reno Rodeo,” Horgan told the Reno Evening Gazette. Numerous world champions such as Larry Mahan, Dean Oliver, Roy Duvall, Jerald Camarillo, Leo Camarillo and Doug Brown were among the entrants.

Despite some inclement weather the expansion to four performances proved to be a resounding success, with 23,128 fans in attendance.

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

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