By Richard Tucker
The largest gay origination in the state, the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association (CGR), will strut its stuff for thousands of people here over the Fourth of July weekend, culminating a week of Gay and Lesbian Pride activities.
It's the sixth annual rodeo of CGRA July 1-4 in the parking lot of the Regency Hotel, I-25 and West 38th Avenue.
This is the first time the rodeo has been held on the holiday weekend, and the first time it's being held in conjunction with Pride Week, according to rodeo director Wayne Jakino. The event at the Regency will also mark the closest the rodeo has ever been to downtown Denver.
Jakino, who operates CGRA activities out of his office in the basement of Charlie's, said he is "excited" about this year's event, which he expects to break all previous records in attendance and participation.
The "Biggest Party in Denver" will launch the weekend in Regency's Grand Ballroom on Friday, July 1, with the "Mike High Hoedown." Then comes three days of rodeo performances, parades, and exhibitions.
There will be 1200 seats at the rodeo arena and Jakino sees "no problem in selling out all three days." That would be an attendance record, since 2700 spectators are the most CGRA has drawn in the past.
The Friday night party is expected to draw even more. Jakino said he has had calls from nearly every state in the union and that many of them will be here to dance, listen to country/western music, and show off their square dancing and country clogging prowess.
Among the calls Jakino has received was one from a gay group in Portland, Maine, which is sending 20 persons here. At first, he joked that he thought the group was from Portland Oregon, but was informed that it was the other end of the country.
Straight rodeos generally have seven events. There are 13 at gay rodeos, including educational and comedy events.
One of the most popular, Jakino said, is the "wild drag race" in which a team of two, one of them in drag, has to catch a steer and get the "drag queen" mounted on it to ride across the finish line. If she falls off, he said, the team has to start over.
After an absence of two years, a rodeo parade will be held again this year. Jakino said the parade was cancelled the last two years because of the high cost of insurance. This year, CGRA can afford the extra insurance because it doesn't need to buy a liquor license to sell draft beer on the rodeo grounds.
"We can use the hotel's liquor license," Jakino said. "They'll set up bars on the parking lot and people can buy something besides beer."
Much of the hotel will also be decorated in Western motif, Jakino said. After the Friday night bash, he said western entertainment will be offered in the ballroom.
CGRA was organized in 1981, just after the opening of Charlie's. the popular gay-country bar at 7900 East Colfax Avenue. Jakino said that he and several others from Charlie's decided to incorporate after returning from a gay rodeo staged by a Reno group.
Colorado's first gay rodeo was held the next year, with Jakino as rodeo director, as he is today. Reno, which had a larger gay population in California to draw from-and the added lure of Nevada gambling-has gone out of existence. That leaves Colorado's as the longest-running gay rodeo on the circuit.
CGRA now has about 150 members, Jakino said, many of whom will be competing and many of whom will be helping run the July 1-4 event. Jakino noted that there usually are about 150-175 volunteers for the event, which is a fund-raiser for the Colorado AIDS Project (CAP); this year, there are 1,000.
He said he also expects 200 people to compete here-out of about 500 on the gay circuit. Jakino said the first CGRA rodeo, staged in 1982, drew about 50 competitors and "Reno never had more than 40" even though the Nevada event attracted bigger crowds.