Behind all the excitement, the rodeo relies on hundreds of volunteers to keep the event going strong each year. But the importance of those volunteers can sometimes be overlooked.
Still, it’s hard not to notice the Reno Rodeo Flag Team with it flashy outfits and slick riding maneuvers. However, its greater importance should never be ignored because the sponsors are what have helped keep the Reno Rodeo an event not to be missed for over 90 years, and the flag team is one of the major ways those sponsors are recognized.
One of the girls bringing the sponsors to the forefront is a Spanish Springs High School graduate. Kayla Roundy, a 2006 SSHS grad, has been a member of the Reno Rodeo Flag Team for seven years.
This year, the Reno Rodeo Flag Team has over 50 members and will be one of the largest flag teams in the nation. Each night, the flag team members ride around the arena, carrying a flag of national and local sponsors.
It’s more complicated than it sounds as there are national competitions for flag drill teams, and it’s not a rarity that horses or riders get hurt during the choreographed performances. But like a true cowgirl, Roundy knows what it takes.
“A couple years ago, the horse I was riding tripped and fell and we kind of did a little somersault,” she said. “We were fine. I think the scariest part was everyone screaming. When you ride horses, it goes along with it. You’re going to fall, but you just have to get back on if you want to keep riding.”
Luckily for Roundy, she has found a trusty horse in her Goldie. This is the second rodeo Roundy has ridden Goldie, who just turned 8 years old.
“It’s a lot of work with a new horse, but she’s doing really well this year,” Roundy said. “It’s a lot for a horse to deal with. There’s a lot of commotion. You’ve got like 52 girls with flags riding around. You have to be able to ride and pay attention to make sure there are no accidents.”
Roundy, soon to be 22 years old, got her first horse from her father when she was 13, about a year before her father passed away. While she gave up high school sports at the time, his death made her realize the special intangibles of owning and caring for a horse.
“That’s when I realized how therapeutic horses were, so it got me really passionate about it,” Roundy said. “The flag team was there. You get addicted to it and meet great people. It’s fun. That’s how it got started for me.”
Roundy mostly does leisure riding thanks to living on a nice size property in Spanish Springs. She was recently introduced to team sorting through the flag team and hopes to become more involved in that sport as well.
She is also continuing her education.
Roundy, a fourth-generation Nevadan, is currently a student at the University of Nevada, Reno. She’s in her third year of school, but isn’t quite sure what she will end up doing.
She does know that northern Nevada is her home and she owes a lot to her family as well as some of her best friends on the flag team, who have been like a second family to her.
“Through the rodeo, you get to meet some really great people and some really inspirational people,” Roundy said. “I think anyone can take something out of the sport of rodeo and put it toward something positive in your life. That’s what it’s done for me. Basically just the atmosphere of the whole entire thing is probably my favorite part.
“I feel really honored to be a part of the team. My mom has been really supportive, and I wouldn’t be where I am without her. I’m thankful for the other people who have helped me ride and get to where I am today.”