Tamara Marks has always been a country girl at heart. Born in Ohio, she lived on a small acreage where she learned to ride bareback on Bridget, her pony. During summer and school breaks, she helped her Grandma and Grandpa herd livestock (pigs, sheep, horses, cows, bulls) in and out of their livestock hauling trucks. After they sold their trucks Tamara helped them on their milk farm.
Tamara also participated in the exhibits and competitions at the Grange Fair, Stark County Fair, and the Ohio State Fair with entries in baked goods; showing her pet rabbit; and choral competitions. She was also active in church choir, as well as high school and college choral groups.
Soon after college she began singing to raise money for charity. One of her first fundraisers was for those affected by HIV/AIDS. As a result, she won her first award sponsored by "Club Granny's Place" in Detroit: "Granny's Entertainer of the Year". Tamara became a member of the Detroit Bar Guild (DBG), singing at clubs around Detroit and the surrounding areas. She won many awards through the DBG, including "Female Entertainer of the Year".
Tamara's love of music ultimately led her to the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA). She was intrigued to read in a gay newspaper about "The Greater Motown International Rodeo" produced by the Michigan Gay Rodeo Association (MIGRA), and its charitable fundraising. Tamara was invited to perform at the 1996 Michigan rodeo and she was looking forward to seeing how the concept of 'gay' and 'rodeo' worked. She was longing, too, for a return to her country roots. Plus... it was all for charity!
From that experience, Tamara 'knew' getting involved and learning more about Gay Rodeo was for her! Since 1996, Tamara's involvement with the IGRA rodeos has made a significant impact. Later that year, she was named the first Ms. MIGRA, and also went on to win the title of Ms. IGRA 1998. Tamara had finally found her place. When asked: "Why gay rodeo?" her response was: "Because it's where it doesn't matter whether you're gay, straight, bisexual, or transgender. We all work and play together without prejudices. It's like a family reunion at every rodeo! Every association has its own personality. It's fun to see what each association brings to our rodeo program."
During her 20-year venture, Tamara participated in 124 rodeos, 16 World Gay Rodeo Finals, and 9 IGRA conventions. She competed and won ribbons in calf roping on foot, and buckled in the Wild Drag Race, both of which earned her invitations to compete in IGRA's World Gay Rodeo Finals. Although she didn't compete in Flag Racing and Chute Dogging they were her favorite events as a spectator. "Flag Racing is fast: watching the horse and rider working together as a team, and the skill involved in picking up and placing the flag. Chute Dogging is human against animal. A person getting into a tiny space with a 500-pound steer with the intention to 'take it down'!"
Tamara's numerous awards include the International City of Hope Benevolence Buckle (2002) recognizing her tireless efforts in raising money for charity and her work with IGRA. The IGRA Director's Award (2003), IGRA President's Award (2003), IGRA International Award (2003 & 2005), IGRA Finals Grand Marshal (2004), and 10-year royalty commemorative buckle (2008). Tamara also had the honor of leading the Omaha Pride Parade on horseback carrying the IGRA flag.
Tamara was always involved whenever she attended a rodeo. When she wasn't up in the booth in an official capacity of Scorekeeping or Announcing, you could find her working as a timer, pulling gates, working in the arena, and/or singing. As an Announcer, she continued to use and update Wayne Jakino's announcer format, and updated all IGRA record rodeo performances and developed a history of all event buckle winners for use when she announced. The record rodeo performances are now part of the www.gayrodeohistory.org website.One of Tamara's more memorable stories occurred in 2003 at the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association's (MGRA) "Show-Me State Rodeo." On Sunday, the rodeo was cancelled due to a torrential rainfall that made the arena very dangerous. Rodeo Director, Bobbi St. Jeor, was devastated because of the loss of revenue from Sunday's ticket and food sales. Tamara decided the best way to keep contestants and spectators at the rodeo facility spending money on food and drinks was to host a bingo game. The games featured cash payouts. Needless to say, MGRA sold lots of food and more drinks, and all the money raised from bingo made up a good portion of the lost revenue. Turning a really bad situation into a fundraising opportunity - that was Tamara at her best!
Tamara's accomplishments are many, including: MS IGRA 1998, and IGRA Vice President (2000 - 2003). During her term as Vice President, she is most proud of bridging the gap between rodeo contestants and royalty. She made sure that IGRA royalty was present at all rodeos, expanded the royalty program to include all aspects of IGRA; cleaned up the IGRA Bylaws and Standing Rules for Royalty, which made them easier to understand; designed the IGRA Royalty Sash making it more uniform and consistent year to year; and created the Royalty Etiquette Guide. She also served as IGRA University Director (2002), Finals Scorekeeper (2005-2008), Finals Announcer (2009, 2012, 2013 and 2017) and Finals Rodeo Director (2004). Tamara was the first to introduce the concept of using 4 Assistant Rodeo Directors for the IGRA "World Gay Rodeo Finals," which is still used at the time of her induction into this Hall of Fame. Also under Tamara's leadership, Heartland Gay Rodeo Association (HGRA) donated $38,000 to charity from the proceeds raised when hosting the 2004 IGRA World Gay Rodeo Finals; which is one of the largest donations from an IGRA finals.
In 2006, Tamara finally realized a lifelong dream: still being true to her first love as a singer. After having performed at countless clubs, rodeos and fundraising functions throughout the country, as well as Pride Celebrations, Tamara traveled to Nashville to realize her dream of recording a CD.
At the time of her induction into the IGRA Hall of Fame, Tamara is slowing down. She is mostly retired from her nail technician business. However, she is working as a Network Marketer for industry leader, Nerium International, an anti-aging company. She is also continuing her fundraising efforts for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, World Vision, and St Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Tamara was also a guest on the annual fundraising radiothon for Child Saving Institute (CSI). She talked about her experiences in rodeo, and particularly about the connection that HGRA had with CSI as one of its charities. She is enjoying home life, helping at the ranch and traveling with her partner of 18 years, Bryn Geerdes, a 2010 Hall of Fame Inductee. "When we met, Bryn was a rodeo competitor, and through her I realized there was so much more to rodeo. Bryn is my rock; my soul mate; my best friend and the love of my life." On their ranch in Ashland, Nebraska Tamara and Bryn enjoy the many animals in their care: horses, miniature donkeys, Border Collies, indoor cats, and barn cats.
In conclusion, Tamara wishes to acknowledge her sincere appreciation for the many incredible people who have supported her in her life-changing journey.