New exhibit celebrates Reno Rodeo centennial

RENO, Nevada – The Reno Rodeo is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019 and the Nevada Historical Society is tipping its cap to the city’s longest running special event with a new exhibit.

On Wednesday, May 15, the Historical Society will unveil, “Reno Rodeo: 100 Years of the Wildest Richest Rodeo in the West.” The exhibit includes historic artifacts, artwork and photographs that range from the event’s beginnings in 1919 to present day and focuses on the people who were instrumental in writing the rodeo’s history.

They include:

  • William Moffat: Owner of the Union Land & Cattle Company, who served as the first president of the Reno Rodeo Association in 1919.
  • Charles W. Mapes Sr.: Rancher, banker and auto dealer who created the Mapes Cup trophy in 1920 to go to the saddle bronc riding champion of the rodeo.
  • Will James: A convicted cattle rustler who went on to fame as Western artist and author. His first piece of commercial artwork was sold to promote the first rodeo in 1919.
  • Mary Harrington: A teacher at Southside Elementary School in Reno who won a popularity contest in 1922 for the opportunity to travel across country and invite President Warren G. Harding to attend that year’s rodeo. The trip had unintended consequences.
  • Charles Sadleir: Known as the Father of the Reno Rodeo, the hotel man and community leader resurrected the event from a 10-year closure and established the framework for the rodeo that continues today.
  • Ernie Mack: A Reno photographer whose images of the rodeo span four decades. (The Nevada Historical Society houses the Ernie Mack Collection.)
  • Cotton Rosser: A saddle bronc rider turned stock contractor, his Flying U Rodeo Company has produced the Reno Rodeo for almost 60 years.
  • Bob Tallman: A Winnemucca native and member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, who has served as “The Voice of the Reno Rodeo” for nearly 40 years.
  • Selena Ulch: The only woman to hold the titles of Miss Reno Rodeo, Miss Rodeo Nevada and Miss Rodeo America.

The exhibit will also include vignettes of Nevada cowboys and cowgirls who made history as champions at their home-state rodeo, including Joe Marvel of Battle Mountain, Jade Corkill of Fallon, Dakota Eldridge of Elko and Charley Gardner of Ruby Valley.

The Reno Rodeo began as the Nevada Round-Up in 1919 as a community celebration under the auspices of the Commercial Club, the precursor of the Reno Chamber of Commerce. From the beginning, the goal was to create an event put on by volunteers that would attract the top cowboys and cowgirls in professional rodeo, while also attracting tourists to the area.

The event had financial problems in the 1920s, but was resurrected in 1932 and has been an annual event ever since with the exception of 1944 – the height of World War II, when no rodeo was held.

Today, the Reno Rodeo is one of the top 5 regular-season rodeos in terms of prize money sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and has an annual economic impact on the region of more than $50 million.

The exhibit at the Nevada Historical Society, which will be in place through the summer is curated by Nevada Historical Society staff and Guy Clifton, a former journalist and author of the book, “Reno Rodeo: A History, the First 80 Years.”

The exhibit will remain in place through August 2019.