Texas Tradition Rodeo moves to Texas Horse Park for 2016


Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor

Organizers are expecting between 80 and 85 cowgirls and cowboys to compete this weekend, April 29-May 1, in the 2016 Texas Tradition Rodeo, being staged at the new, city-owned Texas Horse Park at 811 Pemberton Hill Road in Dallas.

Marcus Hood, rodeo director, said this week that as of Wednesday morning, April 27, 65 contestants had already pre-registered to compete. He said he was expecting to see another 15-20 competitors sign up during open registration Friday, April 29.

Hood also noted that the music festival that was added to the rodeo weekend last year is returning, and will feature headliner Billy Gilman along with Big City Outlaws and Time Machine.

The rodeo events will be held in the Texas Horse Park arena, which is covered, even though it is an outdoor arena, Hood noted. “That way, even if it does rain, you can watch the rodeo and stay dry,” he said.

Gilman’s performance, originally scheduled to be held outdoors, has already been moved inside the event center at the park, Hood said. The center will hold about 300 people, he said, but organizers have already arranged for a 30-foot-by-30-foot, three-sided tent to be set up right outside the event center to shelter any overflow crowd.

“The event center has glass walls, and we are going to open all the doors so those who are watching from under the tent instead of inside will be able to see and hear everything,” he said.

Texas Tradition Rodeo is the statewide contest for the Texas Gay Rodeo Association, and Hood said that cowboys and cowgirls from around the state will be competing, alongside men and women from Oklahoma, Florida and California for sure, with others likely.

“We have a really good line-up of cowboys and cowgirls coming in for the rodeo,” he said. “It’s going to be very competitive.”

Hood said the Texas Tradition Rodeo will include “all the usual” LGBT rodeo events. There will be speed events — barrel racing, the flag race and pole bending — and roping and rough stock events — chute dogging, bull riding, steer riding, calf roping on foot, team roping and mounted break-away roping — you would expect to see at mainstream rodeos.

But, the rodeo director continued, Texas Tradition Rodeo always includes the “camp” events that set LGBT rodeo apart, providing an added dimension of entertainment for spectators, and giving newcomers a way to get in on the competition. Camp events are goat dressing, steer decorating and the Wild Drag Race.

In goat dressing, competitors work in teams of two to tie a ribbon on a goat’s tale faster than any other team. Competitors start off behind a line drawn near the chute gates, and when the buzzer sounds, the run to a goat, tied by a long rope to a stake near the center of the arena. They have to catch the goat — not as easy at it sounds, by the way — and tie the ribbon around its tale.

Steer decorating works pretty much the same way — tie a ribbon on a steer’s tale faster than any other team. (Steers, for those that do not know, are male cows that have been castrated.

They tend to be smaller and less muscular than bulls.)
Steer decorating always involves teams of two. They start off with one team member holding a rope tied around the horns of a steer that is closed in a chute. When the buzzer sounds, the chute door opens and the team member holding the rope pulls the steer out of the chute and across a chalk some feet in front of the chute. Once the steer crosses the line, the second team member moves in to tie the ribbon on the animal’s tale while the first team member works to hold the steer still.

The most popular camp event is the Wild Drag Race, involving teams of three. It starts with a steer in a chute, while one team member waits outside holding the rope tied around the steer’s horns. When the buzzer sounds, the chute opens and team members one and two work to get the steer out of the chute and across a line near the center of the arena. Once the steer crosses the line, the third team member — who must be dressed in “drag” to some degree — has to get on the steer’s back and remain mounted as the other two team members coax the animal back across the line.

Hood was quick to note that just because these three contests are called “camp” events, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. “You can get head butted, bucked off, stepped on, kicked, drug across the ground,” he said. “Every event in the rodeo has the potential for injury.”

Another difference in the LGBT rodeo is that men and women can compete in all events. In mainstream rodeos, few men compete in the speed events, and even fewer women — if any — compete in rough stock events.

The rodeo events run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with the grand entry around noon each day. The music festival runs from noon to 5 p.m. both days, with Gilman performing Saturday evening.

The TGRA Royalty competition was held Thursday night, April 28, and 2016 winners will be crowned Friday night, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The weekend winds up with an awards ceremony Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20 daily for Saturday and Sunday events, or $30 for a weekend pass.

“We’ve got the rodeo, the music, vendors, food and adult beverages,” Hood said. “Everybody needs to come on out, grab some barbecue and a cold beer and cheer on your favorite cowboy or cowgirl.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2016.