THE RENO GAY RODEO- A LOCAL EVENT FOR CHARITY KNOWN AS- "THE NATIONAL RENO GAY RODEO"
The idea of a Gay Rodeo was originated by its founder Phil Ragsdale, in 1975. His thought was to have an event to raise money for a local charity. At the same time, help erase the stereotype of Gays. Early in 1976, he started this adventure and found it would be one of the most difficult projects he would ever be faced with.
Where to have the Reno Gay Rodeo? Where to find the livestock? Upon finding out the earliest possible date at the Washoe County Fairgrounds was October 2, 1976, he accepted this date and was then introduced to the Fairground Manager, who was a very understanding and liberal individual. He was very willing to work with Phil.
However, the problems that lay ahead were yet to be uncovered ...... .
Phil contacted the local farmers and ranchers in the Reno area. Not lying, but not telling the full truth, he approached the first rancher and explained that he wanted to rent some of his livestock to put on an Amateur Rodeo for the Senior Citizens' Annual Thanksgiving Day Feed. He told him it was a "Local Civic Group". The rancher told Phil, he was sure there wouldn't be any problem loaning him the livestock needed. The rancher was amused with the thought of Drugstore Cowboys/Cowgirls putting on a rodeo. The rancher then asked, "Exactly what group is putting this event on?" To which Phil replied, "The Reno Gay Community" At this, the rancher began finding many excuses for backing out of his oral commitment. This first rejection did not stop Phil. Nor did the next 35 rejections. Phil was determined to see this thing through.
On Friday, October 1, 1976, still no livestock for the Reno Gay Rodeo. As a last resort, Phil decided to buy some cows and calves on his own. Phil headed for the auction yards in Fallon, 60 miles east of Reno. Only to experience more disappointment. There was a large sign which stated, "Auction Every Wednesday". Inquiring at the office, he was referred to a local rancher. Through this rancher, he was able to acquire the livestock which was needed. The next day the livestock arrived. The livestock consisted of 5 cows, 10 calves, and 1 Shetland Pony. The numerous Gay Organizations who were to run the different concessions arrived. Along with the many clowns. With only I large arena, wild cows and calves running loose, no holding pens and no chutes. IT WAS RODEO TIME! There were 3 categories - I. King of the Rodeo (Male), 2. Queen of the Rodeo (Female), and 3. Ms. Dusty Spurs (Drag).
Even though the attendance of our First Reno Gay Rodeo was small, through word of mouth and the great efforts of our own Phil Ragsdale, Emperor I, our rodeo has progressed to what it is today. With the combined efforts of all, the event was bright, colorful and full of fun. Mistakes are made, but we learn each year and improve from them.
As Phil has stated from day one, "The Reno Gay Rodeo is for ALL Gay people, Guys and Girls." Or, as he likes to refer to them, "Regardless of their persuasion ..... ".
We now have changed the categories to 1. All Around Cowboy (Male), 2. All Around Cowgirl (Female), and 3. Ms. Dusty Spurs (Drag). And, rather than trying to be like a professional rodeo, we still like to maintain it for all. Be it the professional, amateur, or the novice, maybe it's easier to sum it up as a "Western Gay Day". Hope you have enjoyed yourself this weekend and will return next year with your friends for the next NATIONAL RENO GAY RODEO.
If you would like to be on the Rodeo Mailing List, please sign the guest book at the front gate or write to the following address.
Comstock Gay Rodeo Association
National Reno Gay Rodeo
P.O. Box 2372
Reno, Nevada 89505
ADDRESSING THE ISSUE OF E.R.A. • • • • • • • • • • • •
WHY, DO YOU HOLD A NATIONAL GAY EVENT, THE NATIONAL RENO GAY RODEO, in a State that has not ratified the E.R.A.?
This article is directed to the HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION of S.F., the HARVEY MILK GAY DEMOCRATIC CLUB, N.O.W. and all others who have asked this question:
The Human Rights Commission of S.F., wrote a letter to our Lt. Gov. Myron Levitt, showing disgust with his "bigot" remarks, a copy of that letter was sent to CGRA/NRGR and then a letter to us that was just as "bigoted" as our Lt. Gov. remarks. I called them and explained that the Rodeo was started here in Reno to show Gay visibility here in our State, as well as working for charities for the betterment of Gays as a whole. I went on to say that the NRGR IS FOR ALL GAY PEOPLE, Male, Female or Drag (For All Gays regardless of their sexual persuasion.
Regarding the E.R.A., if they (Pro-ERA Groups) are so hell bent on its passage here in Nevada, JUST WHERE THE HELL HAVE THEY BEEN when our legislature has been meeting? What have they done "locally" and "personally" to help its passage or making Nevadans aware?
For the better part of them, I can tell you where, Sitting on their ASSES in Government paid jobs, in ratified ERA States, trying to dictate to people in unratified ERA States.
Is this to mean that Gays are not to live in unratified States??? Sorry, but not all Gays want to live in ratified States!! Furthermore this controversial issue DOES NOT have the backing of a majority of the Gay women I have personally talked to.
It is groups like the Human Rights Commission, who urge boycotts of events like ours, that show to the rest of the country, that the words GAY UNITY are full of holes!! To say it mildly.
To the Harvey Milk Gay Democratic Club. You asked-me to address this issue, at this years Rodeo. So, I hope that you, too, will read this and possibly reconsider your letter dated June 20, 1981.
What, I feel, is needed, is more groups like the NATIONAL GAY TASK FORCE, GAY RIGHTS NATIONAL LOBBY and other groups who are fighting for ALL GAYS and addressing ALL GAY ISSUES!!!!!
The Wild Cow Milking Contest is a "team" effort. Three people to a team: 1. A Roper, 2. A Mugger, 3. A Milker.
As I have always said this Gay Rodeo is for ALL, be Male, Female or Drag, or as I say, "Regardless of your persuasion".
After the second rodeo, I received calls from "Macho Cowboys" saying that they would participate, IF I would eliminate the Lesbians and Drags. In sticking to my convictions, I refused and told them to stay home and miss a fun weekend. After repeated calls of this type, I tried to think of an event whereby I could use ALL THREE TOGETHER. And Yes, you guessed it, it was the Wild Cow Milking Contest.
The ropes are already on the cows before coming out of the chutes and the Lesbian has a hold on it. The object is for the Lesbian to stop or slow the cow down by the rope, then the Drag must "mug" the cow (grab it around the neck or by the head and steady it) and the Guy must run up to it and milk it, getting at least two drops of milk into the cup. Then run to the Arena Judge. First one there and showing the judge his two drops of milk wins the event. And each team member of that team receives a beautiful prize buckle.
It's a serious team effort but more than that, it's a very funny event to watch. I'm sure after you observe it you'll agree.
In the inception of the Reno Gay Rodeo, Phil had asked people of the Reno Gay Community to come to the Rodeo dressed as clowns. Those who did come would remember it as "colorful", and "colorful" it was. There were sad clowns, happy clowns, funny clowns, and some you could describe as "ridiculous". But they helped to make the show.
Under the direction of Dick Welles, the pavilion had 20 to 25 clowns. After the first year, Dick was asked to head the Reno Gay Rodeo Clown Unit and has been doing so ever since.
Last year was the first year real Brahma bulls were used in the Rodeo. "Red" from Sacramento had volunteered as a bull clown, as he had had some experience. But, accidents can happen and unfortunately, Red was gored, not once, but twice by the same bull. He finished the event and was taken to the hospital for treatment.
On Sunday, realizing there was no bull clown, it was considered to cancel the bull riding event. Dick Welles was asked if he'd work the bulls. After some hesitation on Dick's part, he consented. "The Show Must Go On!!!"
Dick prepared himself, holding only an umbrella, alone in the arena, standing a few feet in front of a chute waiting for it to swing open and face a 2,000 pound bull, uncertain what lie ahead. The chute swung open, the bull came bounding out, threw the cowboy and charged after Dick. Dick ran forward to get the hull's attention away from the fallen rider. ... Dick repeated this each time until the event was over. Everyone felt the tension in the chute area. In the main grandstand, few knew this was his first time out there until the Rodeo announcer told them. It was a happy group of people around the chute area to see this event over with. (Let alone, Dick!)
We doubt you will see Dick out there this weekend playing with the bulls, but you never can tell.
Let's hear a big round of applause for the bull clowns as they have a very dangerous job. Even so, they make it look very entertaining from up in the grandstands.