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Sensi Magazine

Save a Horse

Jul 01, 2019 11:43AM ● By Leland Rucker
OK. I’m a little queasy about rodeos. When I took on this assignment, I had questions about whether I wanted to promote a sport that seemed perpetually stacked against the animals participating. Like many people, I’m sure, the image of a calf’s neck snapping, stopped cold in its tracks by a rope, just won’t go away.

That’s why I’m almost giddy to report that there won’t be anything to remind you of that image at the Rocky Mountain Regional Gay Rodeo at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds July 5–6. In fact, quite the opposite. Now in its 37th year here in Denver and organized by the International Gay Rodeo Association, this is an event open to all participants women, men, non binary, gay, straight, queer, everyone and though animals are used, they are treated just like everybody else. It’s all just part of the fun.

“We are huge into animals. We probably treat them like we do each other,” explains Tre’ Brewbaker, assistant director of the International Gay Rodeo Association and the reigning Mr. IGRA 2018. “We have rules. We have a person in charge of making sure animals are treated fairly, and we don’t contract with those who don’t follow those rules. It’s pretty awesome to see everybody behind the scenes aware of things like that. We’ll take anybody and show them around,” he says.

I haven’t attended one yet, but after spending an hour watching videos of recent events around the country, I was impressed (and laughing out loud much of the time) at the way the organizers have co-opted traditional rodeo events into competitions that are, well, just a whole bunch of fun.

There are conventional rodeo events barrel racing, calf roping, bull and steer riding. But the emphasis is on the participants’ skills, not animal subjugation. In the steer roping event, for instance, as soon as the line goes around the animal’s neck, it drops off instead of pulling taut. In the calf roping event, contestants do just that, but on foot.

Serious competitors come from all over the country to win prize money here and in 12 other regional events, which qualifies winners for the national gay rodeo finals in Scottsdale, AZ, Oct. 24–27.

The real fun begins with the campier special events unique to this rodeo. This will be the first year in Denver for the Community Goat Dressing event, where two participants attempt to put a pair of underpants on a kicking goat. The Steer Decoration event features one person trying to hold a steer while the other wraps a two-foot ribbon around its tail. The crown jewel is the Wild Drag Race, which involves a male and female who attempt to get a third person onto a steer and across the finish line. Oh, did I mention that the third person has be dressed in drag?

A Full Weekend

5–7 p.m. Rodeo Registration (in the Pole Barn)
8–11 p.m. Community Barn Dance and Hoedown featuring the live musical talents of 25 South (free)

9 a.m. Gates open
10 a.m. Rodeo competition begins
6 p.m. Junior Rodeo
8–11 p.m. Rodeo Toga Party with music, games, contests, prizes (plus free Beer Bust until 10 p.m.)

9 a.m. Gates open
10 a.m. Competition begins
Volunteer Appreciation & Awards Banquet with $10 barbecue buffet begins after the rodeo events end.

All events listed take place at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the gate. For a complete list of events and running order, see CGRARODEO.COM.

The campier events are open to anyone. “There are no requirements. No one asks, and no one cares,” Brewbaker says. “We’re over it. Been over it and not taking ourselves too seriously. It’s a rodeo like any other, but we have fun as well. Everybody hangs out. It’s a weekend-long event.”

The Denver rodeo is operated under the auspices of the International Gay Rodeo Association. Rodeo has traditionally not been open nor hospitable to gays or women performers, and the IGRA was formed, in part, to allow those performers a chance to showcase their skills in front of audiences. The first Denver rodeo, in 1983, besides allowing gay performers, was also a fundraiser for the LGBT community in response to the AIDS crisis. “At rodeos back then, if you identified as gay, you just couldn’t compete,” Brewbaker says. “I wasn’t around. I didn’t experience what some people did.”

The first gay rodeo was held in 1976 in Reno, NV. Attendance was minimal, but the idea took off, and gay-rodeo competitions began springing up in California, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado. There have been ups and downs over the decades, but the Denver events have been held every year, and today, Brewbaker says there are 19 associations around the country, 13 regional events, and more worldwide interest than ever. In November, the 2019 IGRA Convention takes place here in Denver.

But the impetus behind everything is to raise money and awareness. Winners become fundraisers and help get the word out to more people. Everybody is involved. “Our job is to raise money and be the face of organization,” Brewbaker says. “To compete for the royalty title, you win your state level. Then you have to meet, raise money, or volunteer.”

Brewbaker has competed in rodeo events and now is a member of three associations, does public relations for others and is the new president of the Louisiana Gay group. “I love the competition,” he says. “But what I really like it is it gave me a new family. Gay rodeo is the only sporting event in which competitors cheer on the people who they competing against. Everybody cheers because we all hang out.”