TGRA’s Texas Traditions rodeo comes out of the chute in Denton this weekend
The Texas Gay Rodeo Association has been staging rodeos in Texas since 1985. And this year’s Texas Traditions Rodeo, being held Saturday and Sunday, at the Diamond T Arena, 6900 E. Sherman Drive in Denton, will incorporate all the elements of gay rodeo that fans have known and loved for those 30-plus years.
But there will be some new additions this year, too, noted TGRA State President Tim Smith — additions that rodeo fans of all ages — and all sexual orientations — are sure to enjoy.
One of the biggest additions this year will be the advent of a new rought stock event called ranch saddle bronc riding.
Ranch saddle bronc riding, Smith said, was introduced to the gay rodeo circuit by a straight female competitor, and the Texas Traditions rodeo is the only the second rodeo on the IGRA — International Gay Rodeo Association — schedule to include it. The first one, he noted, was the Phoenix rodeo, but “that rodeo was rained out before the ranch saddle bronc riding could even buck out.”
In bareback bronc riding event, competitors ride without a saddle and are allowed to hang on to a lead rope with only one hand. If their free hand touched the horse they were disqualified. The more traditional saddle-bronc riding event allowed the competitors to use a saddle, but they could still only hold the lead rope with one hand and couldn’t let their free hand touch the horse.
But in ranch saddle-bronc riding, “there are a lot fewer rules,” Smith said. Riders use whatever kind of saddle they want, and they can grasp the rope with one hand, or use both. The object here, he explained, is to show out as much as possible.
“Maybe you want to hold the rope with one hand and wave your hat around with the other. Maybe you want to hold on with both hands,” Smith said. “The object is to show out as much as possible. Ranch saddle-bronc riding is much, well, showier. It’s a very interesting event — let’s just put it that way.”
This year’s venue is also a bit different, Smith said, explaining that most of the past TGRA rodeos have been held in various city-owned facilities — Texas Horse Park in Dallas last year, and before that, Fair Park Coliseum, Pasadena Fair Grounds in Houston and W.R. Watt Arena in Fort Worth. Expenses in such arenas tended to be higher, he said, while proceeds from food and beverage sales and parking fees went back to the city that owned the facility.
Diamond T, however, is privately owned, and it is specifically a rodeo venue. That means that costs are lower — TGRA doesn’t have to pay to bring in dirt for the arena and then pay again to have the dirt removed, for example — and profits are likely to be significantly higher, because the proceeds from food and beverage sales and parking fees all go to TGRA, not to the arena owners.
That in turn allows TGRA to invite other nonprofit organizations to participate and to raise funds at the rodeo, too. For example, on Saturday Pegasus SlowPitch Softball teams will be operating the beer booths, and Cowtown Leathermen will be operating the food booths. Proceeds from sales go to TGRA, but the softball players and the leathermen get to keep whatever tips they bring in. On Sunday, Trinity River Bears will be operating the beer booths, and the food booths will be operated by a transgender organization based in Dallas.
Smith said that lower costs combined with higher expected revenue allowed TGRA to cut ticket prices to $10 per person, per day. And still, he said, the rodeo should bring in plenty of money for TGRA, much of which will — as it always has been — be returned to the LGBT community.
“Last year, TGRA Dallas gave about $21,000 back to the community. Fort Worth TGRA gave back about $15,000,” he said, adding that the lowest amount donated back last year by the five TGRA chapters — the other three are Houston, Austin and San Antonio — was about $12,000.
Smith said rodeo organizers have also been thrilled with how easy it has been to work with the Denton community in planning the event. Local businesses and individuals have turned out to participate through sponsorships and other avenues, to the point that “all our buckles, all our ribbons are sponsored. All our chutes are sponsored.
“Denton has been amazingly supportive. We weren’t sure how a gay rodeo would be received there, but we have just been amazed at the response,” Smith said.
“Juicy Pig Barbecue came to us wanting to be a sponsor. There are equine centers, insurance companies — just an amazing amount of support.”
Smith also said he is happy to see support for and participation in gay rodeo events growing among mainstream rodeo fans and competitors. A man who owns the ranch across the road from the arena asked if he could hang his rainbow lights during the rodeo.
A man from Oklahoma contacted rodeo officials to see about paying for his son to enter the competition (the son, unfortunately, is only 15 and TGRA rules require competitors to be at least 18). A straight girl studying rodeo production at Tarleton State University in Stephenville will be coming in, Smith said, to intern with the TGRA rodeo producer as part of her studies.
And then there is Linda Brown of A Wizard’s Spell Ranch in Burleson, who will be bringing her trained Gypsy Horses to the rodeo to perform. “She has just jumped right on the TGRA bandwagon,” Smith said. “She’s been amazing.
“We have quite a large number of hetero riders now — men and women. That’s what we want,” he said. “We want people to have fun.”
Texas Traditions Rodeo
Schedule of events
Friday, March 31
Horse check-in, Diamond T Arena
• 5-8 p.m.
Contestant, volunteer registration, Diamond T Arena
• 7 p.m.
Red River Rodeo Assocaition Barrel Race, Diamond T Arena
• 8 p.m. :
Mandatory new contestant meeting, Diamond T Arena
Saturday, April 1
8 a.m.: Rodeo events begin
∞ Calf roping on foot
∞ Steer decorating
∞ Mounted break-away roping
∞ Team roping
∞ Steer Riding
∞ Grand Entry
(New TGRA titleholders
will be announced during the
Saturday Grand Entry)
∞ Rand saddle-bronc riding
∞ Chute dogging
∞ Pole bending
∞ Goat dressing
∞ Barrel racing
∞ Flag racing
∞ Bull riding
∞ Wild drag race
8 p.m. Oklahoma Tea Party, hosted byOklahoma Gay Rodeo Association, at Mable Peabody’S Beauty and Chainsaw Repair, 1125 E University Drive in Denton.
Sunday, April 2
Rodeo events begin (same order as Saturday)
Rodeo awards, Diamond T Arena
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 31, 2017.