Neal Gay, founder of Mesquite Championship Rodeo, dead at 96

DALLAS — Neal Gay, a member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and founder of the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, died Thursday at his Texas ranch. He was 96.

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Gay died in Terrell, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo shared the news of Gay’s death in a Facebook post, calling Gay a “patriarch” and a “legendary rodeo leader.” In a statement, Gay’s family said they were thankful for the decades of “wisdom, friendship and memories we have shared with so many.”

Born in Dallas on June 25, 1926, Gay began his career as a rodeo contestant in Atoka, Oklahoma, in 1945, the Morning News reported. According to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, he shifted from competition to stock contracting and rodeo production.

In 1957 Gay founded Rafter G Rodeo in Terrell. According to his biography at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame website, Gay opened the Mesquite Championship Rodeo in May 1958. Located in Mesquite, several miles from downtown Dallas, the rodeo continues to this day. Gay was named the event’s managing director.

The rodeo has “since grown from a small Saturday night rodeo, to a cultural icon watched by millions on TV each year,” the PRCA said.

“It was a tough racket to make it, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Gay told ProRodeo Sports News. “I have never been sorry that I got into the rodeo business. I always liked it, and my family liked it. It has been a blessing to me.”

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