Volunteers say rodeo gets in their blood | NevadaAppeal.com

Volunteers say rodeo gets in their blood

Appeal Sports Writer
Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal. Bob Butler, 69, is a member of this year's Reno Rodeo Executive Committee.

RENO – You could call Carson City’s Bob Butler the “king of first impressions” at the Reno Rodeo.

If you work at the rodeo, and there are 250 members and another 250 volunteers that do, the first official face they usually see every year is the jovial Butler, who is chairman of the Manpower group.

Butler is in charge of checking workers in each year. He works out of a trailer near the rodeo office, and spends most of his time taking pictures of workers for their credentials.

“I’ve known Bob for pretty close to 20 years,” said Richard Miller, who is co-chairman of the security committee. “I met him through the rodeo. He’s a fine guy. I think the world of him.”

Butler is one of the true success stories of the Reno Rodeo. He started as a wrangler and working in the stalls back in the late ’80s. He grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and wasn’t exposed to horses until he was in junior high.

“I would spend summers on a ranch in Gardnerville,” Butler said. “It was a business friend of my uncle’s. I worked there three or four summers in a row. It was the best time of my life.

“I was weaned in the Carson Valley. They would give me coffee every morning and a beer every night. I’ve been around horses much of my (adult) life.”

Butler’s uncle, Don Cooper, was honored four years ago by the Reno Rodeo. Cooper was one of the roughstock contractors who supplied horses to the annual event.

Butler, who is the executive director of the Nevada Beef Council, said he spends 10 hours a month in the off-season. From June 1 until the end of the rodeo, Butler estimates he spends 60 hours a week at his “second job.”

Butler can scoff when people say volunteerism is dead. The Reno Rodeo is proof that it isn’t.

“We recruit; advertise,” Butler said. “We have a speaker’s bureau, and we go to the different service club luncheon and talk to people about being members.”

Some people volunteer without intending to be Reno Rodeo members. People who want to work and eventually be members are on a two-year tryout. Evaluations are handed out every year.

It might seem like a lot just to do volunteer work, but the rodeo is one of the most well-run events in the area year in and year out.

There are only three paid employees at the Reno Rodeo -the executive director Alan Kingsley, Sheryl Kirkland, the office manager, and Donna Hogg, the bookkeeper.


Richard Miller, who works for the Attorney General as an investigator, has worked at the Reno Rodeo since 1989.

“I always loved the animals and the western way of life,” said the Washoe Valley resident. “I was always fascinated with the sport of rodeo. I saw the opportunity to get involved with this type of program and help out in the community.

“I love the people; love the atmosphere. I’ve met a lot of nice people and made some real good friends. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done. There have been a lot of good experiences and a lot of bad experiences. The good experiences outweigh the bad.”

Miller co-chairs the security committee along with Josh Iverson. Miller said things have changed since he first started working at the rodeo.

“We have 22 members (working security) and 117 radios,” Miller said. “That number doesn’t even include volunteers and wranglers. Basically, we keep people out of areas where they’re not allowed.

“I remember when I first started, if you needed to talk to somebody you walked around until you found him/her.”


Dayton’s Kenny McPeters, 46, is in his eighth year working at the Reno Rodeo, the last six years as a member.

“I came up here for a performance and really liked it,” said McPeters, who moved to Carson City 15 years ago. “I talked to somebody about being a volunteer.”

McPeters spent most of his Sunday working security at the World’s Greatest Roper event. He does all the events at the indoor arena, and when he’s not there, he is usually working near the contestant gate. He’s worked in stalls and admission before Butler helped him get on the security staff.

Like many of the volunteers, McPeters uses vacation time to work at the rodeo. He said being around the rodeo gets in your blood.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281