TGRA expands annual rodeo, adds music festival, barrel race exhibition
The Texas Gay Rodeo Association’s annual Texas Tradition Rodeo kicks off its next 30 years this weekend with a new look and an expanded slate of events. The rodeo takes place Friday through Sunday, May 1-3 at the Fair Park Coliseum.
This year, TGRA’s 31st annual event includes a music festival, featuring newly-out country-western star Ty Herndon, along with the usual Mr./Miss/Ms. TGRA royalty contests and two days of rodeo competition, according to Charlie Collela, TGRA’s contestant chair.
There will also be a separate barrel race exhibition and competition on Friday night, Collela said. He explained that the rodeo competition on Saturday and Sunday will also include barrel racing events, “but the barrel racing in the actual rodeo is only open to TGRA members. The barrel racing on Friday night is open to the public. Anybody can register and compete on Friday night.”
Collela said this year’s TGRA state rodeo was originally scheduled to be held at the city of Dallas’ Texas Horse Park at the Trinity venue. But the addition of Herndon as the music festival headliner and the extra traffic that is expected to generate prompted officials to relocate to the Fair Park Coliseum.
“We have had the rodeo at the Coliseum before, about 20 years ago,” Collela said. “It worked out just fine then, and I am sure it will be great this year, too.”
Herndon, who came out as a gay man last November, will perform, along with Weldon Henson, Big City Outlaws, Time Machine Band, Donovan Marcelle, Gerald Sugg Trio.
The music fest begins at noon on Saturday and Sunday.
Friday night’s event begins at 6 p.m. with a barrel race exhibition. Winners in the TGRA Royalty contest — competition for which was held Thursday night — will be announced at 7:30 p.m., and then the open barrel race competition begins at 8 p.m.
Registration for the open barrel race competition is $45, and there will be $1,000 added to the purse for the winner.
Collela said that anyone who wants to compete in the TGRA Rodeo events on Saturday and Sunday can sign up as a TGRA member on Friday night and register for the Saturday and Sunday events then.
“All they have to do is come to the coliseum on Friday night and ask for me,” he said.
Rodeo competition begins at 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, Collela said, with competitors “running slack” in the morning hours. “Running slack,” he explained means that some competitors in events with a large number of entrants compete in the morning to keep the afternoon events running more smoothly.
Each event will be included in the afternoon competition, too, he added.
Grand entry begins at noon both Saturday and Sunday, followed by competition in each event. That includes calf roping on foot, chute dogging, steer riding, bull riding, barrel racing, pole bending, the flag race, mounted break-away roping and team roping, along with what Collela called the “real crowd-pleaser events” of goat dressing, steer decorating and the Wild Drag Race.
Collela said that about 50 contestants had pre-registered for the rodeo. Including those who will register at the gate, about 90 entrants are expected to compete overall.
There are five TGRA chapters around the state — in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. TGRA members work throughout the year to raise money, and at the end of the state rodeo each May, those proceeds are divided among the five chapters, which then donate the funds to designated beneficiaries.
One of the main ways the organization raises money is through shows and events staged by the TGRA Royalty contestants, said Mary Honeycutt, Fort Worth chapter president and a Ms. TGRA contestant. In fact, fundraising is one of the main categories on which contestants are judged.
“TGRA is about the rodeo, yes, but we are a charity organization. That’s really our main function — to raise money for our communities,” Honeycutt said. “That’s what keeps me involved. I love the rodeo in general, but what I really love the most is seeing the money we raise go back into helping our community.”
Honeycutt also said that anyone who is interested can join TGRA. It’s not just for experienced rodeo cowboys and cowgirls.
“I’ve been involved in TGRA off and on for about 20 years, and I got started in the dance competition,” she said. “Now I also compete in some of the non-horse events, too.
“TGRA is a lot of fun. This is a great group of people,” Honeycutt continued. “It’s about competition and trying to win, yes. But everybody is willing to step up and help other people get better, too. It’s a great way to meet wonderful people and make friends who will be your friends for a long time to come.”
Tickets to the Texas Tradition Rodeo are $20 for Saturday and $20 for Sunday, or $30 for a weekend pass. A VIP weekend pass, which includes reserved seating for the rodeo on Saturday and Sunday and a meet-and-greet with Ty Herndon, are $150. For a complete schedule of events and to purchase tickets online visit TGRA.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 1, 2015.