The setting was the Reno National Gay Rodeo in August of 1981. A group of more than 300 Texans had just completed an impressive weekend with a show of unity between contestants, candidates, cloggers and enthusiastic supporters. Wayne was curious. What was this Texas delagation doing so right that it could create the magic that surrounded them all weekend? He was asking questions, meeting new friends and nosing around when Miss Reno Gay Rodeo from Texas quipped "Where the hell is Colorado - don't you have any gay cowboys up there?" Those words burned deep into Wayne's heart and kept on smoldering all the way back to Denver.
In less than a month, the fire had started. Reno 1982, was going to be the year for Colorado. But the reality of carrying out the challenge, soon turned into an immense job. Along with the dream came politics, organization, horses, politics, meetings, by-laws, fundraisers, policy, politics, contestant training, dance routines, coordination and politics, politics, politics . . . With every new obstacle, Wayne became stronger, worked harder, and developed more dedication. Colorado didn't win everything at Reno 1982, but it's spirit was undeniably very strong.
I know that Wayne was dreaming of another gay rodeo in Denver even before the problems started to develop in Reno. New friendships, enthusiasm, self-respect and pride acted as fuel to make the fire even hotter. But, the CGRA board decided that Texas should go first. Wayne swallowed hard and diligently went to work trying to convince Texans of our faith in them. When the political dust had settled, Texas decided to heavily support the first Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo sponsored by CGRA to be held in Denver June 1983. One of Wayne's greatest sources of pride comes from knowing four short years later, Great Plains is the lOth gay rodeo held by a non-profit organization. An attempt to list all of Wayne's accomplishments in gay rodeo would be both incomplete and too lengthy. But it wasn't always easy for him. As president of CGRA and RMR rodeo director, he made mistakes. It was sometimes hard for him to channel raw enthusiasm and close down useless debate. But when someone didn't follow through on a commitment, he was always there to pick up the pieces. He became the collecting and disseminating point for gay rodeo in Colorado. Later, when his friends in Texas and California geared up for rodeo, he was their obvious chief advisor. And with the formation of the International Gay Rodeo Association, he has assumed this well deserved position formally.
Wayne will be embarrassed when he reads this article, He will quickly point out the hundreds of other people who have made critical contributions to gay rodeo. But if you have a question about Houston 1984, Phoenix 1986, rules, by-laws or Dallas 1986, and no one else seems to be able to answer, you'll end up talking to Wayne. And when you do, look deeply into his eyes. I'm sure you'll find that the fire is still burning strong. I think it is perpetual.
The 1st Annual Great Plains Regional Rodeo is dedicating the Sunday performance to the friends and family of OGRA who passed away this year. One of these friends, Patrick Dickensen, was selected to represent all of them as our Grand Marshall on Sunday. "Little Pat", as he was known to all his friends, was one of the first contestants from the state of Oklahoma to compete in gay rodeos. His participation began in the late 1970's with the Reno rodeos, and included Colorado and Texas Gay Rodeos.
To each of our friends and family, the Sunday performance is in honor of you and the inspiration you provided us from the beginning when the Great Plains Regional Rodeo was only a dream.
Conceived for Charity; Rodeo has now become a source of Gay Pride, education and the best in country/western entertainment.
The Court system in Reno, Nevada held the first event labeled as a Rodeo and in four short years, Reno's Rodeo became big entertainment. By 1981 the obscure City of Denver became aware of the Reno Rodeo with about 20 people attending! The winner of the Miss Reno National Gay Rodeo title inadvertantly offered a challenge to Denver centered around Denver's lack of participation. Thatsmall challenge led to the formation of Gay Rodeo as we know it today.
The Colorado Gay Rodeo Association, formed in 1981, pushed its high energy out to every state that would listen. They traveled to Texas hoping to get a rodeo started in Southern Mid-America. Coloradomade a high profile appearance at the Reno Rodeo in 1982, which featured celebrities Joan Rivers, Sharon McKnight and Ed Bruce.
Colorado's overtures to Texas resulted in the formation of the Texas Gay Rodeo Association in 1983 following Colorado's 1st Annaul Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo. Growth has been phenominal from that point. Texas staged their lst rodeo in the fall of 1984 and new state associations were forming throughout the West. California created the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association (GSGRA) and their lst rodeo in the spring of 1985.
1985 was a very active year for the rodeo movement. The Arizona Gay Rodeo Association (AGRA) . formed and in January they hosted the formation meeting of today's International Gay Rodeo Association ( IGRA). The 2nd IGRA meeting was held in March 1985 in Denver with elections of Board of Directors and Trustees. September saw the 1st IGRA Convention in Denver and formation of Oklahoma Gay Rodeo Association (OGRA), our 5th association. Thefive states spaced their rodeo dates and set the IGRA circuit year from November lst to October 31st.
With the year established Texas kicked off with their 2nd Rodeo (The first IGRA sanctioned rodeo) followed in January by Arizona's lst Rodeo, on to California for their 2nd Rodeo and then Denver for the 4th Annual Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo. Now we are here attending the lst Annual Great Plains Regional Rodeo sponsored by the Oklahoma Gay Rodeo Association (OGRA).
Apparently the growth has just begun - new associations have been formed and are applying for official IGRA membership. Missouri Gay Rodeo Association (MGRA) and Kansas Gay Rodeo Association ( KGRA) are now formed and have joined with OGRA to co-host this rodeo, the GPRR. New Mexico has also formed and is applying for IGRA membership. The2nd IGRA Convention scheduled for September 25, 26, 27 & 28 in Denver will see growing pains as IGRA attempts to set new goals in education and entertainment for the Gay Rodeo Community.