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Friday, February 25, 2011

2011 gay rodeo season kicks off in Phoenix

By Troy Petenbrink -
The International Gay Rodeo Association contains more than two dozen regional affiliates across the United States and Canada.


Tom Silva traveled west from Providence, R.I., and Sara Simunovich traveled east from San Francisco; but they both came to Arizona for the same reason-to compete in the RoadRunner Regional Rodeo.

The RoadRunner, held this past weekend outside of Phoenix at Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse on the Gila River Reservation, was the kick-off competition for the 2011 gay rodeo season. Silva and Simunovich and more than 100 other participants converged to test their mettle during two-days of events. These ranged from the traditional bull riding to the camp goat dressing (putting a pair of underwear on a not so cooperative goat.)

Aside from the steady rain during the first day of competition, local organizers were pleased with the level of participation and attendance, which they see as a positive sign for the rest of the season.

The first gay rodeo competition was held 1976. Under the direction of the International Gay Rodeo Association, there are now more than two dozen regional associations across the United States and Canada that represent hundreds of members.

It is the regional associations’ responsibility to organize local rodeos and training programs, to promote the country western lifestyle and to support the Gay Rodeo Royalty program.

Last year, many of the associations struggled and some local rodeos had to be canceled due to a lack of financial support.

"The economy has been tough on us," said Douglas Graff, president of IGRA. And while the poor economy will likely remain a challenge for 2011, Graff believes there is still strong support for gay rodeo and local associations will continue to thrive with IGRA’s support.

One of the key strategies of the associations has been to include more social events in affiliations with their rodeos and partnering with local tourism agencies to assist with promotions. As part of RoadRunner, the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association held special parties at Charlie’s, a popular country western bar in downtown Phoenix, and a Country Idol music competition.

In addition, IGRA has renewed its commitment to making gay rodeo more appealing to women. One of Graff’s first acts as president was to appoint a chair of IGRA’s Women’s Outreach committee.

For the 2011 gay rodeo season, 14 local rodeos remain; leading up to the World Gay Rodeo Finals. These include:

Texas Tradition Rodeo: Fort Worth, Tex., March 11-13.

Sunshine Stampede: Fort Lauderdale, Fla., April 8-10.

Rodeo in The Rock: Little Rock, Ark., April 29-May 1.

Hot Rodeo: Palm Springs, Calif., April 29-May 1.

BigHorn Rodeo: Las Vegas, Nev., May 20 - 22.

Great Plains Rodeo: Oklahoma City, Okla., May 27-29.

Canadian Rockies International Rodeo: Calgary, Alberta, July 1-3.

North Star Regional Rodeo: Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., July 1-3.

Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo: Denver, Colo., July 8-10.

Greater Motown International Rodeo: Detroit, Mich., July 22-24

Zia Regional Rodeo: Albuquerque, N.M., Aug. 5-7.

Windy City Rodeo: Chicago, Ill., Aug. 19-21.

MGRA Show-Me State Rodeo: Kansas City, Mo., Sept. 2-4.

Best Buck in the Bay: San Francisco, Calif., Sept. 16-18.

World Gay Rodeo Finals: Fort Worth, Tex., Oct. 7-9.
Troy Petenbrink resides in Washington, DC and is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter:


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