Local volunteer helps make Reno Rodeo go
RENO – While volunteerism may be taking a dip around the country, it’s alive and well at the Reno Rodeo.
The Reno Rodeo, one of the biggest events in Northern Nevada, has just 2.5 paid positions. The event relies on people donating their precious time, and more than 400 heed the call yearly.
One of those is Carson City’s Mike Torvinen, who is the deputy director of fiscal services for Health and Human Services.
The 53-year-old Torvinen is in his fourth year of volunteering at the Rodeo, his second year as a member. The first two years the Wooster High graduate worked as a wrangler before being promoted. Torvinen works as an EMT during the rodeo and also is involved with the cattle drive.
During rodeo performances, Torvinen stands near the chute area used for steer wrestling, calf roping and team roping, keeping an eagle eye on spectators and contestants alike.
The rodeo is a family affair. His brother is involved and his 24-year-old daughter, Katie, a Carson High graduate, is working as a wrangler.
“My brother did it for a number of years,” Torvinen said. “I’ve always enjoyed the rodeo. I wanted to help make it a success.
“I’ve been a volunteer for most of my life. I was a volunteer for fire services for 20 years and I’ve coached soccer. I’ve been involved in a few other professional (volunteer) organizations. This (the rodeo) is huge, it really is. I really enjoy this. This is a great group of people. They are all very dedicated to make sure the rodeo comes off every year.”
Torvinen’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“He is very dedicated,” said Bob Butler, the manpower chairman. “He’s a hard worker. I’ve known his brother a lot longer. I met Mike through the rodeo.”
Torvinen hasn’t always been involved in horses like many of his fellow volunteers.
‘I got into horses late,” he said. “My daughter did gymkhana. When she discovered boys, he horse became mine to take care of. I do sorting and penning.”
There is a sorting and penning event at the rodeo, but Torvinen isn’t participating.
After serving on the cattle drive as part of the camp crew, which means riding in motorized vehicles and setting up camp each night for the assorted cowboys and cowgirls, Torvinen was invited on this year’s drive as a guest wrangler the last two years.
“I was with Team Tequila; the pink team (all women) this year,” Torvinen said. “The team I was part of last year had four women and two gentlemen on it.
“One of the girls from last year asked me if I’d like to be part of her team. She’d gone out and recruited a few others (all women). She asked if I’d be willing to wear a pink scarf. One of the ladies is a breast cancer survivor. They were a great group of ladies. They were the life of the party.”
Torvinen said he takes a week’s vacation to go on the yearly cattle drive, and then comes out on weekdays after his shift his over.
It’s a difficult juggling act to be sure, but Torvinen loves doing it, and plans to keep on doing it in the future. Though he admits it’s tiring on days he works and volunteers, don’t expect him to back off any.