Corey Richard Barnes
December 28, 1978 - June 14, 2006
The High Sierra Rodeo Association dedicates this Rodeo to the men & women of the Armed Services. The courageous people who protect our rights that allow us all to be free. This rodeo dedication also honors one of HRSA's own Corey Barnes. Corey passed away June 14, 2006, while serving his country. Corey is the brother of Miss HSRA 2004 & 2005 Anna Duvet (Ryan Barnes). Anna has been instrumental in the production of The Comstock Stampedes 2004 & 2005 along with IGRA Finals 2006. HSRA's hearts & thoughts are with Anna & her family along with all others who sacrificed in the name of freedom.
She is introduced as "the one who started it all in Reno: Empress 1 Keith Ann." There are so many who hold the utmost respect for her, for having done so much, for so many, in so many different ways. And, there are some who are simply just afraid of her. But, after 40 plus years, she truly is "the one who started it all in Reno".
In 1964 Keith and her life partner Tom moved to Reno. There wasn't a lot here for the gay community: one gay bar and definitely no serious drag. Those who went to the bars were too afraid of being "outed" and possibly losing their jobs. Reno was a small town and the consequences from the casinos spotting one of their employees in a gay bar was too much for most. Keith Ann was about to change that. She promoted a positive image of our community and wanted others to feel proud, be out, and not ashamed of who we are. In 1965, she walked into the Old Reno Bar, in drag, to perform some numbers on the juke box and entertain those in the bar. The police stopped her and tried to arrest her for being a "female impersonator". Keith fought back, not with her fists, but with the law. She informed the officers that it was not against the law to be in drag, so long as you had male underwear on and male identification. Keith had both. The officers let her go and she went into the bar and performed. She has been standing up for our rights and for drag ever since she got to Reno.
Keith Ann was elected as the first "Queen of Renci" in 1966 to represent Reno in San Francisco for the Imperial Court of San Francisco Coronation Ball. Ten years later she was one of the contestants for Empress of the newly formed Silver Dollar Court. In April of 1976 Phil Ragsdale and Natalie were crowned Emperor and Empress. There was much controversy with the election and subsequent actions of Natalie. She was removed from office in June, 1976. The Board of Directors approached Keith Ann and asked her to assume the title of Empress 1. Keith agreed with one stipulation: that she reign for a full year. The board agreed and Keith Ann was proclaimed Empress 1 of Reno.
During their reign Keith Ann and Phil traveled to 43 out of town functions, promoting their city and supporting other new courts on the circuit, while trying to build unity and pride at home. Most notable during their year was an idea Phil had for a fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy: a Gay Rodeo. Phil took care of organizing the rodeo; Keith Ann organized the fundraising with the help of her friend Natalie. It was drag shows and candied apple sales that helped fund this unique new event. With financing in hand there was still one problem: at that time no one would loan, rent or lease animals for such an inconceivable rodeo. A lesbian friend of Keith Ann's came to the rescue. Her uncle had range steer at the Indian Reservation in Fallon. A cattle drive brought these untamed and very unfriendly animals to Reno. These steer, along with some horses, goats (the object was to tie a ribbon on the tail of the goat) and greased pigs (use your imagination) were the foundation of the world's first Gay Rodeo. There were 150-175 people in attendance that first year, mainly from our sister cities of Sacramento, Modesto, Stockton and Merced. Empress 1 Keith Ann, in hoop skirt and all, was a contestant.