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. More than a dozen 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 26–June 28, 2015
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 10–12, 2015
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
Aug 14–16, 2015
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. Las Vegas: World Gay Rodeo Finals
Oct 9–11, 2015
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.
5. Dallas: A Texas Tradition Rodeo
Dates to be confirmed
Fort Worth’s brasher next-door neighbour sees 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.
6. Phoenix: Roadrunner Regional Rodeo
Feb 12–14, 2016
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.
7. Palm Springs: Hot Rodeo
Dates to be confirmed
This Golden State rodeo started in 1984. Events included pool parties, Saturday night dances, and a fun day of bull riding, barrel racing and team roping.
7. Oklahoma City: Great Plains Rodeo
May 28–30, 2016
Lining up with Memorial Day Weekend, this Great Plains gala will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2016. Off the grounds, check in to the rambunctious Habana Inn by night and check out the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum by day.
8. Kansas City: Show-Me State Rodeo
Dates to be confirmed
The 22nd installment of Missouri’s gay rodeo has been postponed until 2016, due to a lack of money and plans to return in September next year. While 2016 dates are not yet finalized, the event is usually a Labour Day weekend roundup of roping, riding and camp classics at the Lone Wolf Ranch Arena.
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Ride the web
The International Gay Rodeo Association has links to American and Canadian rodeos and information on the annual convention (St Pete Beach, Florida, Nov 12–15, 2015), IGRA University and rodeo schools all over the continent.