Pride 2011 • 26 years of success, and it keeps getting better

Co-grand marshals Alan Pierce and Gary Miller say they are fortunate to have family, friends and a successful business

Grand-Marshals-Gary.Alan
Gary Miller, left, and Alan Pierce

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Grand Marshals

Alan Pierce and Gary Miller, co-grand marshals with Chris Bengston of this year’s Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, have been partners in life for 26 years, and partners in business for 12.

The two, who own the popular country-western bar Round-Up Saloon, said this week they’ve seen a lot of changes through the years, and are first-hand witnesses to the fact that it does, indeed, keep on getting better.

“Last year when we were celebrating the Round-Up’s 30th anniversary, we asked some of our customers who have been around awhile what they remembered from the early days of the bar, back in the 1980s,” Pierce said.

“Back then, the cops were still harassing people in the gay bars. It was still illegal for two people of the same sex to dance together. So when the cops would come in the bar, all the customers would just stop whatever they were doing and sit down on the dance floor,” Pierce said. “They would just sit there, very calmly, until the cops left.”

It was the same, he added, in Houston where he lived and worked for about 5 years as a school teacher.

“They were still arresting people in Houston,” Pierce said. “Since I was a school teacher, if I had been arrested, I would have immediately lost my job.”

These days, he said, “It’s definitely not that way anymore. It has definitely gotten better.”

Pierce, who was born and grew up in New Mexico, made his way to Texas when he went to college at Abilene Christian University. After college, he moved to Houston where he worked as a school teacher and came out as a gay man. In 1983, he left the field of education and bought in as co-owner of the Brazos River Bottom, a gay country-western bar in Houston, in 1983.

That’s how Pierce met the new president of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association, a man from Dallas named Gary Miller.

Miller, born and raised in the Lake Texoma area, was married “for awhile” to a woman with whom he said he and Pierce “still have a great relationship. I have a wonderful son, and a wonderful daughter-in-law and two wonderful grandsons.

“They are all very accepting of us [he and Pierce]. They come down here to the bar to socialize with us, and we are included in all the family gatherings and events. That’s a big part of why it just keeps getting better for us, because we have these children and grandchildren in our lives,” Miller said.

Because he got married early and had a son, Miller — who Pierce gleefully points out is the older of the two — “didn’t come out until I was a little older, in the early 1980s,” Miller said.

But he quickly got involved in TGRA, and it was on a TGRA trip to Houston that he met Pierce.

“We were just friends at first. We were friends for at least a couple of years before we actually started dating,” Pierce said. Miller added, “When
we started dating, I was in Dallas, and Alan was still in Houston. We kept Southwest Airlines pretty busy, going back and forth to spend time together.”

In 1987, Pierce finally decided to move to Dallas so he and Miller could be together full time. By then, Miller had been working for several years at The Round-Up Saloon, thanks to his friendship with bar manager Tom Davis. And when, two years later in February 1989, the Round-Up’s building was destroyed in a fire set by an arsonist, Pierce was there to help rebuild.

After the fire — which was set by a man who had robbed the offices of the Dallas Gay Alliance next door and started the blaze to cover up the robbery — the Round-Up relocated temporarily to a building on Maple Avenue at Throckmorton (the building that most recently housed The Brick/Joe’s until that bar relocated to Wycliff and
the building on Maple was torn down).

It was the end of what had been a difficult decade for Dallas’ LGBT community. “So many people were sick and dying,” Pierce said, “and there was nobody willing to take care of them except the [LGBT] community.”

But as the ’80s came to an end, advances in treatment for HIV/AIDS were beginning to give those with the disease a brighter outlook, and Dallas’ LGBT community was also beginning to shine.

“The whole thing was really beginning to blossom,” Pierce recalled. “We had all these organizations and services in place. We were still fighting the police department’s ban on hiring gays and lesbians, but that was changing, too. Things were getting better.”

Even the fire, which was without a doubt a horrible thing to happen, turned out to be a kind of blessing in disguise for the Round-Up, giving bar owner Tom Sweeney a chance to rebuild, creating a bigger and better space than before.

And Pierce, who had worked in construction, too, in Houston, was there to handle most of the rebuilding for the bar, Miller said.

Eventually, longtime Round-Up manager Tom Davis died, and Miller took over as bar manager. Then in 1999, owner Tom Sweeney decided he was ready to sell, and Miller and Pierce were there to buy the nightclub.

The Round-Up came with a long history of community involvement, and Pierce and Miller said since they bought the bar they have worked to keep that tradition alive.

“We lived through the ’80s, through the AIDS crisis when we all got involved to raise funds to help our friends,” Miller said. “And we have just kept on helping. Because once you get that feeling that comes from doing something good for someone, you never want that feeling to go away.”

As a country-western bar, the Round-Up has always had close ties with TGRA, and has always helped to raise funds and supplies for the Resource Center Dallas’ food pantry and other AIDS programs. The nightclub and its owners developed a relationship with Legacy Counseling Center and Legacy Founders Cottage, a hospice for people with AIDS, when some of the bar’s employees needed the hospice’s services, and the Round-Up continues to hold annual fundraising events for Legacy.

“We have a great venue for events, and it’s necessary to continue raising money, so we do it,” Miller said. “There’s still an AIDS crisis and there are still a lot of people who need help.”
Pierce added, “And if it’s not AIDS, then it will be something else, someone else who needs help. I have always said that about the gay community: We take care of our own.”

Despite the sometimes dire economic situation over recent years, Pierce and Miller said the Round-Up has continued to thrive. Its reputation as the premiere country-western gay bar in the country brings in plenty of people visiting Dallas, including some well-known celebrities over the years, like Tyne Daley, Chelsea Handler and Emma Watson.

And of course, there’s the Round-Up’s status as the bar in Dallas that helped Lady Gaga get her start, booking the singer in 2008 when she was still an unknown. Now, Mama Monster makes it a point to visit the Round-Up whenever she’s in Dallas.

The Round-Up is also a longtime member of the Dallas Tavern Guild, with both Pierce and Miller having held several offices there. They are also proud members of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, which this summer revived Razzle Dazzle Dallas.

“We enjoy what we do, and we are always trying to think of ways to make things better,” Miller said. “We’ve been very fortunate. And I’ll tell you one thing that has helped make things better for us is the ban on smoking in the bars. Alan and I were behind that from the start. I know it hurt some of the bars, the ones that didn’t have patios and didn’t have any way to build a patio. But it’s been nothing but good for us. Our business increased the first night of the ban, and it hasn’t gone back down since.”

Both Miller and Pierce agreed that luck has been on their side over the years, giving the Round-Up a chance to evolve into “a great place to socialize,” Miller said.

“I think people like coming to our bar because they can relax and enjoy themselves there. There’s no big drug scene there, and we work hard to keep the drugs out. We’re not known as a place where there’s a lot of fighting in the bar, because we just don’t allow that,” Miller said. “The scene has changed a lot over the years. There are a lot more straight people who come in now. They like our music; they like to dance. Everyone gets along.”

Pierce added, “I read somewhere not that long ago that gay bars are becoming extinct. I don’t think we are becoming extinct, I just think we’re evolving. And that’s a good thing.”

Miller and Pierce said it is a great honor to have been chosen to serve with Bengston this year as grand marshals of Dallas’ Pride parade, and Pierce said they feel doubly honored tohave been chosen grand marshals of the Dallas parade and honorary grand marshals of the International Gay Rodeo Association’s finals rodeo coming to Fort Worth in October.

“It’s a good feeling, a really good feeling, when you’re chosen by your friends and colleagues for something like this,” Miller said. “Alan and I are very lucky in our life. We’re a good fit for each other, a match that will really last. We’ve been together now for 26 years, and it really does just keep getting better.”

For more information, go online to RoundUpSaloon.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Pride 2011 • The mom of Caven Enterprises

Chris-B.1-cropped

From cooking Thanksgiving dinner for Daire Center clients to heading up the team that builds the Caven parade float, parade co-grand marshal Chris Bengston has been a force behind the scenes of the community for 26 years

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

GRAND MARSHAL

When Caven Enterprises’ Chris Bengston saw the list of people nominated for grand marshal of Dallas’ 2011 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, her name was not on it. And she wasn’t at the Dallas Tavern Guild meeting where her name was added.

So when Caven Enterprises President Gregg Kilhoffer called her to come back to the office, she had no idea what was going on.

When Kilhoffer called, he told her that there was an incident at one of the bars and her name was involved. So Bengston ran back to the office as quickly as possible, frantically trying to figure out what she had done.

Actually, everyone at Caven Enterprises just wanted to see her face when she found out that she would be one of this year’s Pride parade grand marshals.

What they saw there on her face was shock.

To Bengston, all of the events she planned and dinners she cooked and money she raised for practically every organization in the city over the years was just something she always did out of love for the community.

“I guess people were paying attention to what I was doing,” she said, still incredulous that she would have been named to lead the parade.
Kilhoffer calls Bengston the company’s mom.

Before moving to Dallas, Bengston was married. Her husband served in the Army and went to Vietnam.

“When he came back, things didn’t work out,”she said, adding that she just never remarried.

“That’s just the way things worked out,” she said.

But when she was in her 40s, Bengston became pregnant, even though, she said, “I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant.”

Her son, Alex, was the first Caven baby. He’s now a sophomore at Texas State University in San Marcos.

But while Alex was the first Caven baby, he wasn’t the last.

“What’s neat,” Bengston said, “are the number of employees with children now.”

Kilhoffer said several employees became like a dad to Alex.

When Alex was young, Bengston took a number of young Caven employees along with her son on a variety of outings — to the Fort Worth Zoo or the Arboretum or sporting events. She exposed many young people to things they’d never done before.

Kilhoffer said Bengston gave many of the company’s young employees the family they never had. He said she was “Caven’s own Youth First Texas” and “It Gets Better” campaign before either existed.

“I’m constantly getting emails about her, thanking her for going above and beyond,” Kilhoffer said. “She’ll drop anything she’s doing to help anyone.”
Bengston has been involved in hundreds of projects over the years that benefited the community.

One of her fondest memories is working with the Daire Center, an adult daycare center for people with HIV/AIDS, when it was part of Oak Lawn Community Services. Kilhoffer remembers the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners that Bengston cooked for the center.

“At 4 in the morning, she’d call to see where I was,” he said. She was already preparing the holiday meal.

He said she spent days, not just cooking, but doing all the shopping and making more than just a ham or turkey. She wanted to make sure, he said, that people who had nowhere else to go would have a holiday celebration that started with hors d’oeuvres and didn’t end until they had her homemade desserts.

“I could go on and on,” Kilhoffer said. “She’s been involved in so many things. Everyone knows they can call on her and she’s the volunteer who will make things happen.”

For years, Bengston and fellow Caven employee Donald Solomon have been involved in the holiday gift project for students at Sam Houston Elementary School. That school, located just a block behind the Cedar Springs bars, is one of the poorest in the Dallas Independent School District. Each year, Caven employees, led by Solomon and Bengston, make sure that every child at the school gets a gift at Christmas.

And before the school year begins, they make sure that there are enough school supplies. During the year, Bengston will get calls from the school for additional items, and she always responds. The Oak Lawn Library also has relied on her help when they’ve needed supplies.

“For Razzle Dazzle Dallas [revived this year by Cedar Springs Merchants Association, of which Caven is a member], she was the one who calmed us down and kept us focused,” Kilhoffer said.

Bengston organized a fundraiser after Hurricane Katrina for people who had been evacuated from New Orleans and were staying at Reunion Arena. And she’s helped stage fashion shows in an alcohol-free Rose Room, located in Caven’s Station 4 bar, to benefit Youth First Texas.

Bengston’s also involved with GayBingo, held monthly in the Rose Room, helping Resource Center Dallas and a variety of other beneficiary organizations raise money. And she helps with LifeWalk. And the Pink Party, which raises money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Much of the $50,000 that the Dallas Bears raised for community groups at their weekend round-up this year came from the Bear Dance — an event that Bengston made sure went off without a hitch.

“In the ’80s and ’90s, Caven lost quite a few employees to AIDS,” Kilhoffer said. “She [Bengston] was such a help to those who were dying, and to their partners. She sat in the hospital and comforted so many people in their last days.”

For years, Bengston spent the night before the parade building Caven’s parade float along with three friends. Then she spent parade day working behind the scenes.
So she’s rarely gotten to just enjoy the parade.

But after she was named grand marshal this year, Bengston said she asked those three friends — Scott Pepin, Stacy Golf and Bill Scott — to join her in the carriage to enjoy the parade with her.

Bengston said she does the things she does because she’s worked in the LGBT community for 26 years and she wants to see it remain strong.

“I am truly blessed,” Bengston said. “I’ve made a very nice living and appreciate all of the years of memories and acceptance. I’ve had the best times of my life here.”

And she plans to keep on giving. But there’s one lesson she said she learned that keeps her humble after years of working with Caven.

After staging so many fundraising events at the Rose Room, Bengston said, “There are so many guys who look better in an evening gown than I do.”

For more information on Caven Enterprises, go online to Caven.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

A new direction for Tarrant Pride

Parade, block party kick off 29th Pride in Fort Worth as organizers get ready to move it downtown next year; annual picnic promises to be bigger than ever, planners say

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Tony Coronado
Tony Coronado

Officials with the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade are planning a big announcement on Sunday during the annual parade along South Jennings Street in Fort Worth: Next year’s 30th annual Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade will move to Downtown Fort Worth, according to parade chair Tony Coronado.

But first, Tarrant County’s LGBT community gets to party at this year’s parade and picnic. And they don’t have to wait for 2011 to start getting a taste of something new in Tarrant County Pride.

This year’s parade follows the same route as previous years, but reverses direction, marching toward downtown in anticipation of next year’s move, Coronado said. The 29th annual Pride parade begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3.

An addition to this year’s parade is a block party. The intersection of South Jennings and Pennsylvania avenues near the end of the parade route will be closed for the day for the event.

The Rev. Carol West of Celebration Community Church and Mr. Gay Pride Week Scott Wasson Conger are the parade grand marshals. Fort Worth PD’s LGBT Liaison Officer Sara Straten and Chief of Police Jeffrey Halstead are honorary grand marshals.

Among the 50 entries in this year’s parade are several, including Resource Center Dallas and American Airlines, that marched two weeks ago in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in Dallas.

Members of Club Los Rieles saw Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association’s entry in the Dallas parade and approached Coronado about participating. They’ll be traversing the parade route on horseback in the Tarrant County Pride parade this weekend.

Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association President Jody Wasson said Pride Pets is the big addition to this year’s parade. Pets will be judged in three categories according to size. Prizes will be given for best-dressed pet and best-dressed pet and owner.

At 4 p.m. during the block party, pets will be judged on behavior, obedience, grooming and manner. A king and queen will be awarded rhinestone crowns and royal capes.

They will preside over next year’s pet entries and will ride their own float in the 2011 Pride Parade.

Jazz-rockabilly-blues group Aurora Bleu performs on the block party main stage at 3 p.m.

Coronado said that although it is too late to enter the parade, those who are interested can still apply vendor booths at the block party.

“We’ll fit ’em in,” Coronado said. “If you would like to do business and market to us, this is a great place to start.”

He said that because Fort Worth’s LGBT community is so spread out, this is the best place to reach this market.

Additional events are planned throughout Pride Week, culminating in the Pride Picnic on Oct. 10.

QCinema screens “Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride” at Four Day Weekend Theater in downtown Fort Worth at 8 p.m. on Monday Oct. 4.

Best Friends Club has game night on Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. and Pride Karaoke on Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 9:30 p.m.

Fort Worth’s Imperial Court holds its Texas Sweetheart Ball in memory of Taylor Vaughan at the club on Thursday, Oct. 7. And the Texas Gay Rodeo Association performs at the bar on Friday, Oct. 8.

Rhonda Mae presents her annual “Wall of Food Show” at Changes on Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 9 p.m.

Tarrant County Pride Week ends with the annual Pride Picnic in Trinity Park near the 7th Street Pavilion.

Dianne Dunivan is the chair of the picnic. She said this event has “expanded the area a bit” this year, and there will be two stages instead of one.

Entertainment runs on the Bud Light Main Stage from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Local singer Kylie D. Hart and country performer James Allen Clark will be featured on the main stage. A number of groups, including a local stomp troop, will also perform through the afternoon.

On the second stage, a DJ will spin music.

Vendors will be in a tent.

Sara Straten
POLICE PRIDE | Sara Straten, the Fort Worth Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer, pictured, and Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead will be honorary grand marshals for the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade this weekend. Grand marshals will be the Rev. Carol West and Scott Wasson Conger.

“We’re attracting some vendors from out of state,” said co-chair Tina Harvey. “We’ve got a couple of spots left. That’s it.”

But, she said, with enough last-minute vendors, they would rent a second tent.

Harvey said about 40 vendors scheduled include community groups, T-shirt vendors, jewelry and crafts sellers, churches and an attorney.

“The attorney has lots of information on adoption by same-sex couples and estate planning,” Harvey said.

She said the picnic setting is better for taking some time to sit down and talk about adoption or getting involved in community groups than the block party.

Harvey said that hamburgers, hot dogs and beer will each be $1 this year. At past picnics, food was free but mounting the downtown parade will cost more than this year.

“So we’re getting people used to paying a little,” Harvey said.

Dunivan added that the charge should cut down on waste as well. She said that people are also welcome to bring their own coolers and grills.

Picnic activities will include volleyball, horseshoes, tug-of-war and sack races. She said high-heel drag races and wheelbarrow races have been popular events at past Pride picnics.

About 200 children participated in the kids’ area last year. Face painters and balloon artists are this year’s addition to that section.

Harvey said that next year they’re planning events throughout the week and are hoping that people who come to town for Pride will stay for the full week.
Dunivan said the picnic is like homecoming.

“Come out and enjoy the day,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 01, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

92 entries, 35,000 spectators expected for Pride parade

CLICK HERE TO READ SOME PRIDE SAFETY TIPS FROM LGBT LIAISON OFFICER LAURA MARTIN

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Pride Parade
COLORS OF PRIDE | Resource Center Dallas is one of the many community organizations that usually have a float in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

Between 30,000 and 35,000 are expected to crowd into Oak Lawn on Sunday, Sept. 19, for the 27th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride parade that this year celebrates the theme, “One Heart, One World, One Pride.”

Michael Doughman, executive director of Dallas Tavern Guild which presents the parade each year, said this week the parade will include about 92 entries. It will travel the traditional route, with entries lining up along Wycliff Avenue and then moving down Cedar Springs Road to Turtle Creek Boulevard before turning left to wind up at Lee Park.
The Festival in Lee Park takes place at the conclusion of the parade.

Doughman said that members of Youth First Texas, once again the parade beneficiary, will lead the way, carrying the parade banner. They will be followed by a color guard consisting of former military servicemembers from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and then a mounted color guard provided by the Texas Gay Rodeo Association.

Then comes the “VIP section,” which will include grand marshals Paul Lewis and Erin Moore, Houston Mayor Annise Parker as honorary grand marshal, and then local city and county officials, such as Police Chief David Brown, Fire Chief Eddie Burns Sr., members of the Dallas City Council and Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

“We understand that Mayor Parker’s son will be riding in the parade with her, and I think by now everybody knows that [Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Bill White will be walking with the Stonewall Democrats in the parade,” Doughman said.

“I think most of the entries will probably follow our theme this year, which is really all about unity,” he added. “This theme matches the goal of our parade and our community, which is unifying our community and our people.”

Doughman said there is “nothing really new” about the way the parade will happen this year.

“We just work to make it run as smoothly as possible and take out any hiccups or delays. We just want to keep it moving as smoothly and steadily as possible down the road so that the spectators are entertained,” he said.

There will, however, be something new for the Festival in Lee Park. Food services during the festival this year will be handled exclusively by Brinker, the parent company for restaurant chains On The Border, Chili’s and Maggiano’s.

“We really liked the idea of having these recognizable brands out there for the food. We think it is a real step up,” he said. “We think they will do very well, and on top of that, they have agreed to give us a portion of their proceeds to give back to our beneficiary.”

This means there will be a “much larger” food and beer pavilion in the upper part of the park, giving those attending the festival better and quicker service, Doughman said.
Voice of Pride top finishers Mel Arizpe, Laura Carrizales and Juliana Jeffrey will perform during the festival, as will Anton Shaw and her band.

Derek Hartley of “The Derek and Romaine Show” on Sirius XM OutQ Radio will emcee the festival.

Thanks to the economic recession and the ever-increasing costs and requirements of staging the event, finances have created some problems for the parade in recent years. This year, though, things are looking up, Doughman said.

“I think we are OK this year. We had some real struggles in 2008, and last year was still pretty tight because of the economy. But we found some extra sponsors this year, and we did well in raising money during the Voice of Pride competition this year,” Doughman said. “Our main goal each year is to be able to give our beneficiary the amount we have committed to and still be able to pay for the parade and maintain the administrative costs of the Tavern Guild through the rest of the year.”

Doughman said the Tavern Guild doesn’t really generate any revenue until the later stages of VOP and then when the entry fees for the parade start rolling in each year. “So we have to balance everything out to have enough money to cover expenses through the rest of the year,” he said.

“Actually, we are paying a lot of the bills that are due this week, and we will be able to pay the balance of the expenses — things like the cost of added security, renting barricades, cleanup and sanitation costs — right after the parade,” he said.

Doughman noted that the city has recently increased the requirements applicants must meet to get a parade permit, but still the Tavern Guild shouldn’t be looking at any red ink when it is all said and done.

“We won’t be rolling in it by any means. But we did see enough light on the horizon this year to go ahead and invest in new flags and flag holders to put up along Cedar Springs. The old flags were so beat up and faded that we didn’t even put them up last year,” he said.

“We never have an excess of money after the parade because the costs of putting it on are so significant, but we should be OK this year,” Doughman said.

One way the Tavern Guild has cut costs, he added, is by not paying to bring in celebrity guests and performers.

“I think people enjoy the day, whether there are celebrities here or not. We just want to give the people a good parade and a good festival and let them have a great time. That’s why they come out in the first place.”

The 27th Annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Denim ’n drag

How do the hyper-masculine world of leather and the camp of female impersonation find common ground at the rodeo? With surprising ease

Robert Cantrell, co-founder of the leather group Firedancers, and Don Jenkins
NOT THEIR FIRST TIME AT THE RODEO | Robert Cantrell, co-founder of the leather group Firedancers, and Don Jenkins, better known as drag maven Donna Dumae, are the seemingly unlikely grand marshals at the TGRA’s Big D Rodeo this weekend. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

In Texas, cowboys are known for their 10-gallon hats. And drag queens are known for the  10-gallon wigs.

The Texas Gay Rodeo Association’s (TGRA) Big D Rodeo 2010 kicks off this weekend in Alvarado, Texas (midway between Midlothian and Cleburne along Highway 67), and as always, there’s a fun mix of boot-stompin’, calf-ropin’ and dress-wearin’ — all in the name of charity.

But the event also highlights a unique confluence of gay culture. This year, the two grand marshals are Don Jenkins (aka drag diva Donna Dumae from the United Court of the Lone Star Empire) and Robert Cantrell (aka Cleo), one of the founders of the Firedancers.
For anyone unfamiliar with the gay rodeo, the mix of drag and cowboys may seem a little counterintuitive, but to co-director Dan Nagel, the Big D Rodeo is the perfect marriage of camp and cattle needed to raise money for local organizations.

“Drag is a huge part of making those charity dollars,” he says. “TGRA is honored to have the support of so many of the other organizations and clubs in Texas, such as the UCLSE. We could not do all the good that we do with the support from our brothers and sisters throughout our communities working together as a team for a common goal: Charity.”

According to Nagel, some of the biggest crowd pleasers at gay rodeo are the “camp events,” which include competition in goat dressing, steer decorating and the ever-popular wild drag race (one rope, one steer and a man in drag — what could possibly go wrong?).

But the Big D Rodeo also features plenty of serious competitive sports you’d find at many traditional rodeos, including bull and steer riding, team roping, barrel racing and calf-roping on foot. And the skills it takes to succeed don’t depend on sexual orientation or dexterity with a curling iron.

In his 13 years with the International Gay Rodeo Association, six of which he’s worked with TGRA as well, Nagel has participated in six to eight gay rodeos per year on both sides of the proverbial fence, with a hand in everything from rough stock and speed events … and his share of camp demos, just for good measure.

“The rush you get is incredible,” he says. “Like any sport, the thrill is to compete and compete well.”

“We have a great lineup of live music, from Nashville and Texas both, a vendor market, great food, beer, and cocktails,” Nagel continues, “and cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country.”

So pretty much, something for everyone.

“It’s a party-like atmosphere with western lifestyle and heritage that come with all the rodeo hype,” he says.
And the fact the leather and drag communities come out for it proves that the stereotype of the dour, hetero Texas cowboy is just that.

Yup.

— Steven Lindsey

……………………………………….

Big D Rodeo calendar of events

Friday
9 a.m, — Horse stall check-in begins
Noon–3 p.m. — Barrel exhibition runs
6–9 p.m. —Registration
6–10 p.m.: Diamond Dash Jackpot Barrel Race
8–11 p.m.: Diamond W Expo; Homo rodeo.com meet and greet; live music and entertainment.

Saturday
9 a.m. — New contestant registration
10 a.m. — Rodeo performance
1 p.m. (approximately) — Grand Entry
Afternoon — Rodeo performances
2–4 p.m. — Expo; entertainment
7 p.m.–? — Expo, with live music by Weldon Henson and James Allen Clark

Sunday
10 a.m. — Rodeo performances
1 p.m. (approximately) — Grand Entry
Afternoon: Rodeo performances
2–4 p.m. — Expo; entertainment
8 p.m. — Expo; dinner and awards.
Diamond W Arena, 8901 E Highway 67, Alvarado. 214-346-2107. TGRA.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas