The Other 355 Days of the Reno Rodeo

The Other 355 Days of the Reno Rodeo 1

Although the ten days of the Reno Rodeo provides world-class entertainment and excitement, it’s the other 355 days that tells the story of its true success. We’ll dig behind the scenes to see what makes the Reno Rodeo Foundation and Reno Rodeo Association tick. It’s no secret that the rodeo is big business here in Reno. But, how big?

The economic impact of the wildest, richest rodeo of the West is far reaching but the biggest winner is the local community. A 2014 special report prepared by the University of Nevada Economic Development Center for Regional Studies indicates that the economic impact on Washoe County alone is $57 million, which equates to over 500 jobs annually.

By the Numbers

  • 2017 is the 98th anniversary of the rodeo, just two more years until the 100th anniversary
  • The Reno Rodeo is a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) sanctioned event
  • It is the 4th largest (out of over 600) added money rodeo in the United States and Canada
  • Over 1,000 volunteers produce the rodeo each year
  • 2017 is the 27th anniversary of the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive, which brings guests from all over the nation and as far away as Switzerland
  • Over 700 contestants participate in the rodeo (this does not include any of the other events during the week)
  • Over 200,000 guests attend the rodeo annually
  • In 2016, the total purse for all events during the Reno Rodeo was $4 million

A portion of the Reno Rodeo proceeds goes directly to the Reno Rodeo Foundation (RRF) which was incorporated in 1986 and is a 501 (c)3 public charity. The Reno Rodeo Association created the RRF because they wanted to formalize the tradition of giving back to the community. The association gives aid to children with extraordinary needs, builds community partnerships, gives grants and provides scholarships to high school students in rural Nevada who are looking to continue their education. The heart of this organization is the community.

Guy Clifton, the former reporter for the Reno-Gazette Journal, has been covering the Reno Rodeo as a reporter since 1999. He’s been at 176 performances during his 19 years of reporting. If there’s one person who knows the rodeo inside and out, it’s Clifton. “The best thing about the Reno Rodeo are the people involved in it. Past presidents have donated a year of their life to lead the event. Everyone associated with the Reno Rodeo has one common goal. It’s to put on the best rodeo ever as it supports the community through the activities of the RRF.

Throughout the years, Clifton has told over one thousand of those stories. In 2002, he was honored as the national rodeo writer of the year by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He even authored a book, Reno Rodeo: A History-The First 80 Years which contains a lot of rich rodeo history. The rodeo got its start in 1919 with the intent to put on a show for the local community. It worked. Right from the start, it attracted some of the best cowboys and cowgirls across the nation. The community whole-heartedly embraced the event.

They were so proud of it that the organizers decided to invite President Harding to the Reno Rodeo. They knew it would provide great publicity for the city of Reno. While the idea had genius capabilities, the result nearly ended the rodeo not long after its start.

Someone determined that sending Mary Harrington, the rodeo queen, to Washington, D.C. via train to personally invite the president was a good idea. Along the way, she sent telegrams to Reno’s newspapers updating people on her journey. When she got to Washington, D.C., she presented President Harding a cowboy hat and a personal invitation to the rodeo. Unfortunately, he had to decline as his wife was sick. The trip had a high price tag for Reno. The cost bankrupted the Reno Rodeo Association and forced the cancellation of the rodeo for two consecutive years.

But, the organization quickly climbed back in the saddle when the rodeo resumed in 1924 after paying off the rodeo queen travel expenses. The RRF provides grants to Nevada nonprofit organizations, grants a “rodeo wish” to a child with special needs, sponsors projects to improve the lives of children, sponsors a denim drive for children and a reading round-up program for kids. It’s no secret that the RRF takes philanthropy seriously.

By the Numbers

  • There are 16 members of the Board of Directors, all positions are unpaid except the full-time Executive Director position that drew a $101,021 salary in 2016.
  • The staff is all volunteer except four paid staff members. Two are executive assistants, one is an accounting position and the other is a general manager.
  • In 2016, provided $101,789 in scholarships to more than 35 students to attend a university or college in Nevada.
  • In 2016, the RRF spent a total of $346,796 on program expenses.

Team 355

Team 355 consists of the volunteers who spent the other 355 days of the year when the rodeo is not going on giving back to the community through contributions from the RRF and holding special fundraising events. In 2016, Team 355 which consists of 119 team members volunteered 2,400 hours to support the community. One of their most popular events is the “Roping Dummy Road Show” which takes place at various local events. Kids get to rope “steers”, participate in stick horse barrel racing and meet horses.

The Denim Drive

The Reno Rodeo Denim Drive is a huge annual event where the community has an opportunity to donate new denim clothes, shirts, infant and toddler clothing, socks and underwear for abused, neglected and abandoned infants, children, and teens rescued from unsafe homes in the 14 northern Nevada counties.

The RRF realize that giving something like new clothing to a neglected child who has nothing offers a sense of well-being and comfort. It shows that somebody cares about them.

Did you know?

  • Since 2006, the RRF has donated over $360,000 in clothing for abused, neglected and abandoned kids in foster care and protective custody.
  • What is collected in each county stays in each county.
  • 100% of every penny raised from “Donate a Dollar for Denim” is used to purchase additional new clothing throughout the year.
  • Each week young people in protective custody and foster care in Nevada wear 35,000 jeans, 35,000 pairs of underwear 35,000 shirts and 70,000 socks.
  • In 2016, they received $75,361 in financial contributions and $196,641 in new clothes for a total of $271,002.

Bill Price, Reno Rodeo Marketing & Public Relations Director, joined the rodeo back in 1981 eventually becoming the president in 1999. Since then he’s filled a variety of positions. Although rodeo participants battle for prize money and spectators flock to activities at the event, the real winners are members of the community.

Price got roped into the rodeo when he started printing the program in 1983. He worked in the printing industry at that time. He enjoys talking about the humble beginnings of the rodeo program that started out as 80 pages. Only eight of those pages had content. The rest were advertisements. His goal was to create a program that would become a keepsake, something people could proudly display on their coffee table. Today the program is precisely that. It includes 224 pages of photos and content worth sharing. About 35 percent of the program contains ads. At one point, they charged attendees $5 for the program. Now it’s free, but people have the option to donate back to the RRF. Most people do. Last year, a local rodeo youth group made about $9,000 on donations from the programs.

When talking to Price, one thing is clear, everything the Reno Rodeo does is to give back to the community. It’s what they do all year round.

Kohn & Company CPAs audit the annual financial statements of the RRF and prepare the Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Tax. According to Connie Christiansen, a partner at Kohn & Company, “Reno benefits economically from the influx of visitors from around the country and national media exposure.  The rodeo not only serves to promote our community, but it provides an opportunity for all ages to experience the rodeo heritage. This is done while raising funds to support the Foundation that provides charitable services to children with extraordinary needs, scholarships for worthy students to attend Nevada colleges, as well as community grants to non-profit service organizations offering support for children. It is a win-win. Reno provides a great event for locals, media exposure as a travel destination, and much-needed funding for children’s programs such as new clothing for foster kids, a reading literacy program, holiday toys, scholarships, and community grants throughout 14 northern Nevada counties.”


While the official Reno Rodeo will take place June 15-24 this year, the 355 days leading up to the 99th Reno Rodeo impact our community each day. If you or your business want to get involved in fundraising activities, contact Reno Rodeo general manager George Combs at 775-329-3877.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *