It’s time to get back in the saddle and canter to a cowtown near you. Since the first one took place in Reno in 1975, the world of gay rodeos has come a long way. Fourteen cities now host events.
Although the prevailing atmosphere is often more festive than sportive, competitors display incredible skill to win honours such as the prestigious All-Around Cowboy and Cowgirl awards.
But it’s not just the broncos that kick up their heels. There are some significant differences between gay rodeos and their straight counterparts, the most obvious being that all events are open to all, unlike traditional rodeos that restrict men from some events and women from others. And on the program, alongside bull and bareback bronco riding, there is a selection of less pro-sports events, such as steer decorating, where a team of two attempts to attach a ribbon to a steer’s tail; the wild drag race, where two people perch a drag king or queen on top of a steer’s back and propel the obstreperous beast over the finishing line; and goat dressing, where a goat is wrestled into a pair of jockey shorts.
Whether your interests are serious or frivolous, we’ve rustled up a posse of top rodeos that are rightly branded as North America’s best.
1. Calgary: Canadian Rockies International Rodeo
June 27–June 29, 2014
The rodeo that showed those Brokeback boys how it’s done celebrates its 21st year in 2014. In addition to its calf-roping, barrel-racing and steer-decorating shenanigans, this event also has a music festival, food and other vendors, a country carnival and a rodeo school on the first day of the competitions. Away from the arena, Texas Lounge is a saloon with cheap drinks and a friendly crowd.
2. Denver: Rocky Mountain Rodeo
July 11–13, 2014
With calf roping, chute dogging, goat dressing and bareback bronc riding, as well as a slew of big nights at Charlie’s, the perpetually crammed country and western bar in the heart of the city, there’s always a stampede for tickets for this one.
3. Santa Fe: Zia Regional Rodeo
July 25–27, 2014
The New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association covers it all with rough stock events such as chute dogging, steer riding, bareback bronc riding; roping events such as mounted break-away roping and calf roping on foot; speed events such as flag racing and pole bending; and, of course, the crowd-pleasing and camp goat dressing.
4. Cleveland: Gay Games 9 Rodeo
Aug 10–11, 2014
This Akron-area event boasts the usual array of events, plus live entertainment, rope spinners, whip crackers, line dancing and a boisterous dance finale at Miss Kitty’s Saloon, a special entertainment area beside the arena.
5. Kansas City: Show-Me State Rodeo
Aug 29–31, 2014
Missouri’s gay rodeo turns 21 this year with another roundup of roping, riding and camp classics at the Lone Wolf Ranch Arena. This year’s Labour Day event has the theme of Boots, Class ’n’ a Lil Sass and is shaping up to be a weekend with character.
6. Fort Worth: World Gay Rodeo Finals
Oct 16–19, 2014
Held in the ultimate-cowtown Will Rogers Center, these invitation-only finals promise to display the best of the LGBT rodeo world, from awards to rodeo king and queen coronations to two packed days of rodeo action, vendors and food and drink.
7. Dallas: A Texas Tradition Rodeo
Next February, Fort Worth’s brasher next-door neighbour will see its booted and hatted boys and girls spurred into action at this annual raucous ropin’ and ridin’ rodeo, which boasts the full array of activities, from steer riding to wild drag racing. After the last goat has got its underwear on, head to Hunky’s gay-owned hamburger joint and wrestle cows onto your plate before joining the fun at The Round-up Saloon, the best country bar in the country, where cowboys and cowgirls two-step, karaoke and carouse nightly.
8. Phoenix: Roadrunner Regional Rodeo
The Southwest gets even hotter when hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls ride into town for this annual rodeo, which celebrates its 30th year on the trot in 2015. Bar crawls, brunches and steak banquets round out the herd of offerings. Traditionally, the first day is a rodeo school with instruction in chute dogging, calf roping on foot, goat dressing and steer riding.
9. Palm Springs: Hot Rodeo
This Golden State rodeo celebrated 30 years in the saddle in 2014. Some of its birthday events included pool parties, Saturday night dances, and a fun day of bull riding, barrel racing and team roping.
10. Oklahoma City: Great Plains Rodeo
Lining up with Memorial Day Weekend, this Great Plains gala has been going for close to three decades. Off the grounds, check in to the rambunctious Habana Inn by night and check out the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum by day.
• • • • •
Ride the web
The International Gay Rodeo Association has links to American and Canadian rodeos and information on the annual convention (Denver, Nov 13–16, 2014), IGRA University and rodeo schools all over the continent.
For more on October’s World Gay Rodeo Finals in Fort Worth, check here.