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News Archive: 2008

Gene Autry's Contribution to Rodeo Sport Cameo Exhibit in Las Vegas At the Thomas and Mack Center For the Pro Rodeo, December 4 – 13, 2008
Posted November 1, 2008

The Autry National Center's Founder's Day cameo Gene Autry's Contribution to Rodeo Sport exhibit is on the road and headed for Las Vegas! You have a second chance to see this special exhibit that showcases Gene Autry's role in professional rodeo at this year's 50th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo event at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo features 10 straight days of the best rodeo competition, with a total of 120 contestants competing every night in seven events. Sold-out attendance is expected to exceed 174,000 over 10 days.

Celebrate Gene Autry's Contribution to Rodeo Sport At the Autry National Center of the American West, August 11 – October 25, 2008

Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, December 4-13

Los Angeles — October 24, 2008 - The Autry National Center of the American West celebrates Gene Autry's contribution to rodeo sport with a Founder's Day cameo exhibition that looks at his role in professional rodeo. Each year in order to celebrate Gene's birthday on September 29, the Founder's Day cameo is placed in the museum's lobby and showcases one aspect of Gene's life and career.

This year the Autry takes a look at the beginning of Gene Autry's twenty year role in professional rodeo with objects from our collection including Gene's fluorescent rodeo performer's shirt and jacket, souvenir program, Gene's rodeo saddle, his Flying A spurs, and large images of Gene with friends at various rodeos throughout his long career.

"Rodeo is the second largest attraction in the entertainment field today. It is getting more popular. It is the true western sport. It is getting bigger and bigger. Every large city now has a large building or an arena in which the rodeo can be staged indoors and at night. This makes possible features never before possible in rodeo." Gene Autry, Oklahoma City Times, November 14, 1941.

"Rodeo played an important role in Gene's life and these cases serve as a small window into that aspect of his career. It is my hope that this exhibit will provide a link between today's rodeo fans and those of yesterday. Gene founded the Autry National Center to preserve and promote America's Western Heritage. Rodeo is very much a part of this rich and diverse history," said Mrs. Gene Autry.

The cameo closes on October 25, at the Autry and then heads to Nevada for the Rodeo and will be on display at the Thomas and Mack Center December 4-13.

Rodeo History in the Cameo

In the 1940s, rodeo was one of America's biggest spectator sports. Gene Autry starred in several rodeos during the 1940 season and in 1941, built his own rodeo company, the Flying A Ranch Rodeo. He raised the level of rodeo competition and performance by standardizing competitive events, providing more prize money and better livestock, and creating greater excitement and entertainment in live rodeo acts. By the end of the decade, he was one of the sport's biggest producers.

Gene established the Flying A Ranch headquarters in Berwyn, renamed Gene Autry, Oklahoma, in 1941. Autry planned to produce over 15 rodeos in the 1942 season; however, the start of World War II altered his plans. On July 26, 1942, Autry enlisted in the Army and merged the Flying A with the World Championship Rodeo Corporation, forming one of the largest rodeo operations in the country.

Gene's Flying A Ranch Rodeo premiered at the Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition in February 1942. The rodeo included fluorescent costumes that glowed in the dark and never-before-seen black light special effects. This show streamlined roping and bucking competitions and featured exciting entertainment, setting a high standard of performance and entertainment still in use at the National Finals Rodeo.

About the Autry National Center of the American West

The Autry National Center of the American West is an intercultural history center that includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of the American West (formerly the Autry Museum of Western Heritage), and the Institute for the Study of the American West. Each institution maintains its individual identity; however, the convergence of resources allows us to expand our understanding of the diverse peoples of the American West, connecting the past with the present to inform our shared future. The Autry National Center's executive offices are located in Griffith Park.

Autry National Center of the American West Mission Statement

The Autry National Center explores the experiences and perceptions of the diverse people of the American West, connecting the past with the present to inform our shared future.

The Museum of the American West and Museum Store are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. From June 1 to August 31, Thursday hours are 10 am to 8 pm. Admission is free on the second Tuesday of every month and free for veterans year round.

Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for students and seniors 60+, $3 for children 3–12, and free for Autry members, veterans and children 2 and under.

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