by Wayne Jakino
The Grandfather of Gay Rodeo begins a column in which he will share his memories of the early days of our modern Gay Country Western lifestyle.
It is with just a little pride and a lot of enthusiasm that I welcome you, the readers and Parkwood Publications (the publishers of RoundUp), to the Gay Country World and RODEO.
Gay Rodeo officially has members in over 30 states (over 10,000 fun loving men and women) and the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) circuit boasts no less than 15 regional rodeos for 1993, plus the Finals Rodeo to be held in Fort Worth Texas in late October. Rodeo is only the tip of the iceberg though, Country/Western is in demand in cities all across the USA and many popular night clubs are providing the space, sound and support for this huge and growing part of the community.
Sometimes referred to as the Grandfather of Gay Rodeo, I would like to share my experiences with you. Way back in 1980 a bar called BROADWAY COUNTRY opened in Denver with a country/western dance format and a whole new attitude. It didn't take long for us to find out we were "Hooked on Country," and when the city bought the building for the new Legislative Library and closed our country mecca in early 1981, we were lost. By June of 1981, Charlie's Denver opened their doors with all the country music and square dancing we could handle. About mid-July of the same year, one of the guys heard about a gay rodeo scheduled for August in Reno, Nevada. Naturally we were very skeptical about the reality of this tale, and after a little discussion (very little actually) we decided that if nothing else, we would enjoy the casinos and made reservations.
After arriving in Reno we found the largest gathering of gay people we had ever seen (1O,000 at the rodeo grounds alone and over 28,000 booked into area hotels and motels). You're right! A lot of people had the same idea if the party at the rodeo grounds wasn't that hot, the casinos would be. (The SANDS was the real hot spot over 80% gay at any and every gaming table or device!)
The rodeo was a real eye-opener too. We witnessed thousands of same sex couples and singles sharing the earthy back-to-our-country-roots weekend with dancing, square dancing, clogging and meeting new people and friends. As we relaxed and mellowed into the flavor of the West, I was intrigued with the numbers of social and self-growth opportunities the Country Western world offered. Same sex couples were dancing close, wrapped in each other's arms, and polishing those big shiny belt buckles. Others were square dancing-all male squares and all female squares, or mixed squares with men in the women's position and women in the men's position and the wild enthusiasm of the clogging groups plus the world of the arena horses, cows, calfs, bulls and the like, all gave the genuine feeling of ranch life and independence.
TEXAS was the word for the weekend as that state had a large contingency of guys and gals, and won the big titles of the Mr., Ms., & Miss Reno National Gay Rodeo competition. (A huge fund raising event for Muscular Dystrophy-over $42,000 in 1981.) They all sported flashy T-shirts proclaiming "We're Texas," and you could feel their pride just being near them.
Basically, this all leads up to a 30 second exchange of words with a drag queen that changed my life! She was Texas, I was Colorado. She won the big title of Miss Reno National Gay Rodeo 1981. It was so crowded we were forced to move sideways very slowly through the maze of people. I was pressed right up against "her" - since I couldn't keep moving and ignore her. We were trapped face to face. I said, "Congratulations." She said, "Thanks. Where are you from?" I replied, "From Denver." And she spouted, "Denver! Since I couldn't tell anyone was here from there, ya 'all might as well have not showed up!" Well, a wise man might have nodded and moved on! Not so in this case. Out of my mouth rolled, "Perhaps, but we'll be back next year, and you'll know it then!"
Next issue I will fill you in on the rest of the story. In the meantime, Happy Trails to you! Hope to see you on the Gay Rodeo Circuit.
Known as the grandfather of Gay Rodeo, Wayne Jakino and half a dozen other people decided to put together a little group called the International Gay Rodeo Association, and the rest is history. Wayne and John King started one of the first gay Country Western bars in Denver in June 1981 . That bar, today known as "Charlie's," is one of the most successful in the country, with ranches in Phoenix and Chicago.
Wayne was the founding president of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association as well as being instrumental in putting together the Gay Square Dancers Association. He has also been the Trustee for CGRA, and was responsible for bringing Miller Brewing on board as the IGRA's first International Sponsor.
Wayne is serving the city of Denver as one of a five person team under the Mayor, who help select Denver's Chief of Police and Manager of Safety. He has just recently been selected as the first civilian to serve on the Chief of Police Consultants Panel. He is also serving Denver's Mayor on his Lesbian and Gay Advisory Panel. Just recently he became President of the Colorado Tavern Guild and was honored as Businessman of the Year by the largest neighborhood association in Denver. Wayne was the Grand Marshall at the IGRA Finals, held in Phoenix in October.
Wayne passed away from Cancer on July 16, 2008
"Let's rodeo!!" What is it about those two words that gets so many of us up, on our feet, and yelling our heads off?
I've been going to rodeos for almost twelve years and I've never had a bad time. City boys, urban commuters, and rural gays alike seem to become family for those few raucous, dusty hours. Whether on the hard seats of the arena ringside, or browsing the "cowboy minimall," or two-stepping around the dance floor, the experience transports us all to another time and place.
Phoenix, Arizona, January 15th to the 17th was the setring for the 8th Annual Road Runner Regional Rodeo. With the magnificent mountains in the background, the Grand Entry festivities began promptly at noon with the parade of rodeo officials and the flags of the US and 32 states. While the weather was getting decidedly mixed reviews, the arena was ready for action. The crowd was treated to a special greeting from one of the local members with an overhead "fly-by."
One of the first pieces of business was to bring the crowd up to snuff politically by announcing the injunction that was filed in Colorado to stop implementation of Amendment 2. Needless to say, the news was greeted with more enthusiasm than a loose bull.
The arena is basically an old bull ring that brought with it some great advantages that aren't present at a place like, say, the L.A. Equestrian Center. The whole atmosphere seemed so much more authentic. This made everyone feellike getting wet and muddy, not only the contestants, but the spectators too.
Saturday started (and finished) with a stroll through the crowd to do a quick review of the latest in fashion, style, and "cowgay drag." Never disappointed by the Western style the crowd was certainly up to par. Having done that, the time had come to settle in and watch the reason, the real reason, for being there.
The events were of the usual variety, but full of enthusiasm and real courage. Some first-time riders mixed with the veterans of the circuit. The bareback riding always seems to be my favorite event. Samething about the best man and horse that always strikes me as the way it always has been and that relationship just can't be improved on. I'm always on my feet and holding my breath for that one. As many events as I've seen, it seems like every dismount, whether "forced" or "voluntary" has a unique look and feel of its own.
My least favorite event, and this rodeo proved to be no exception, is the barrel racing. I can't speak for the participants, but there must be some way to make this event more exciting. I certainly don't mean to minimize the talent of either horse or rider, but it just doesn't do it for me.
The usual crowd pleaser (and it took some getting used to for me) was the wild drag race event. The comic relief takes the focus off the potential danger while keeping in character--OK, well, sort of-with the spirit of inventing games for man and his four legged friends.
Everyone in the stands had a wonderful time, and I'11 bet so did all those guys and gals who showed us their talent, their courage, and their pride, demonstrating the wonderful diversity of the gay community.
I was thoroughly tired and happy as I was forced to face the fact that it was over, and it was time for us to return to our daily routines until next time when we gather to hear the call "let's rodeo."
As President of the International Gay Rodeo Association (I.G.R.A.), I first of all want to give a special thank you to Parkwood Publications for creating this new quarterly magazine which focuses on Gay rodeo and country/westem information. Though RoundUp is not produced by the I.G.R.A., several individuals who are affiliated with the rodeo organization have been invited to submit articles relating to I.G.R.A. activities.
The specific purpose of the International Gay Rodeo Association is the fostering of national and international amateur rodeos, equestrian competition, and related arts, crafts, and country/western activities. I.G.R.A. was created to help develop amateur athletes and activities for rodeo and equestrian enthusiasts. RoundUp has created an exciting new medium which I.G.R.A. can use to reachout and inform the Gay community of our functions.
When Gay rodeo first began it was a once a year event in Reno, Nevada. As the desire for more rodeos increased, there came a realization that there would be a need for an organization to give uniformity to a possible "rodeo circuit." The International Gay Rodeo Association was formed, and it has gone through numerous changes as more Member Associations join, and more rodeos are added each year.
I.G.R.A. does not have any individual members, but is made up of Member Associations. Individuals may become members of any Member Association of I.G.R.A. These Member Associations combine to make up I.G.R.A. similar to the way indivdual states combine to make up the United States. Each Member Association has a representative who sits on both the I.G.R.A. Board of Trustees and I.G.R.A. Board of Directors. These two Boards govern the direction of I.G.R.A. between annual conventions. For the annual convention, each Member Association is allowed to send additional delegates to vote on changes to the Bylaws, Rodeo Rules, and Officers.
The Bylaws and Rodeo Rules developed by the Member Associations are the necessary tools that help the International Gay Rodeo Association bring uniform standards to the production of all I.G.R.A. sanctioned rodeos. A training program has also been developed to ensure that qualified officials are available for each rodeo on the I.G.R.A. circuit. These are training programs for Arena Director, Chute Coordinator, Judge, Secretary, Score-keeper, and Rodeo Auditor.
Many of you may never have been out of the city, while others may have grown up in rural areas or on ranches. The majority of people believe that to be involved with rodeo it is necessary to: 1. Grow up living on a ranch. 2. Own a horse which you can "ride like the wind." 3. Fit a stereotypical character depicted in cigarette billboard ads. Forget those ideas!! Sterotypes should not be used for a rodeo image any more than they should be used for occupations, gender, race, or even sexual orientation. Also, not all of the people involved with rodeo are contestants. Prior to a rodeo there are months of planning that require a variety of skills: drawing, photography for posters and programs; computer skills for registering contestants; writing articles for publicity; organization of fundraisers; getting bids for rodeo facilities, hotel, merchandise, sound systems, rodeo stock, and numerous other items. During a rodeo weekend there are many volunteers who work in the arena, behind the bucking chutes, taking tickets, selling merchandise, acting as safety monitors, and working with the entertainment, or performing.
The I.G.R.A. rodeo year runs from November 1st through October 31st of each year. There are fifteen rodeos scheduled for the 1993 season. As of this writing, two of the rodeos have already taken place: the annual Texas rodeo which was held in Dallas last November, and the Road Runner Regional Rodeo which was held in Phoenix, Arizona, in mid-January.
There are four rodeos scheduled to take place before the end of May. The third annual Saguaro Regional Rodeo will be held March 20th and 21st in Tucson, Arizona. This will be the first time that it will be held at the South Tucson rodeo grounds. The ninth annual Greater Los Angeles Rodeo will be held April 17th and 18th. The location will be the Los Angeles Equestrian Center located in Burbank, California. The second annual Bay Area Regional Rodeo will be May 22nd and 23rd. This marks the first time that a Gay rodeo will be held at the "Cow Palace" in San Francisco. The Great Plains Regional Rodeo will be celebrating its eigth year the weekend of May 29th and 30th. The rodeo will be held at the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Contestant registration and a dance are usually held on Friday night before each rodeo, and sometimes the partying begins on Thursday night. You can get more information on each rodeo by calling their Hotline Number. Look for their ads or the listing of Member Associations located in this magazine. The complete Iist of this year's rodeos is also in this issue of RoundUp.
I hope that I have helped you to understand a bit more about the purpose of the International Gay Rodeo Association. You will find more infomative rodeo and country/western articles in this and all issues of RoundUp. If you would like more information on joining one of I.G.R.A.'s Member Associations, please contact the association of your choice.
See you at the next I.G.R.A. rodeo!!
Rodeo in America is only a hundred years old. Rodeo events have evolved from the actual workday world and were derived from cowboy games at the end of a long cattle drive, where after a month they' d head for town to compete with one another in riding and roping abilities.
Rodeo itself was more or less invented to relieve the monotony and loneliness of the life of the working cowboy in the days of the cattle drives and open range.
At the large roundups during the last few decades of the nineteenth century, representatives of the participating outfits in the district were sent out to pick up stray cattle. These "reps" were good riders and they used to bring a string of unbroken horses, often called outlaws or broncs, to break to ride for use in their work. Often the "reps" would challenge the cowboys and bets were made on the rider or the bronc. Roping contests were also held in a similar way to test the cowboys skills in the arena. At other times, the cowboys from the various camps would challenge each other - with Rodeo being the result (usually including only one or two events, most often Saddle bronc riding and Steer roping).
What was to become Rodeo, as we know it today, was the play of the working Cowboy, in which he would indulge during rare breaks from his regular work, or when that work was finished. There were no forms of amusement on the trail. The Cowboy had to entertain himself. It was quite natural, therefore, that his pastimes would be ones in which his occupational skills were involved, and could be measured against those of others. However, although the Cowboy was not the only one who made a game and a contest out of his craft, his were the only skills to have been developed into a professional sport of the magnitude that Rodeo has achieved.
The early Cowboy contests often took place in the town square of the rail head at the end of the cattle drive, and was something to look forward to which included the town dance.
The community that claims to have been the first to hold an organized Rodeo, even before the days of the cattle drives, is Prescott, Ariwna. Prescott was only a few months old when its' first contest was staged on the Fourth of July, 1864. It was only fitting, then, that the town should also be responsible for two other firsts: Twenty four years later, on the Fourth of July, 1888, admission was charged for the first time, and Rodeo bercame a spectator sport.
The Fourth of July became the special day for Rodeo, and is nowadays popularly referred to as The Cowboys Christmas.
Rodeo gradually became a profession in itself. It is an occupation that requires certain very special qualifications: a strong constitution, an active mind, a steady nerve, and a fearless spirit.
A living legend: "The American Cowgirls and Cowboys."
Rodeo-Americas #1 sport. Do not confuse Cowgirls and Cowboys with other athletes. They are athletes to be certain, but just as certainly they are a breed all their own, and come from a variety of backgrounds and they work at a variety of different jobs. All enjoy the dangers and challenges of Rodeo Competition.
Rodeo Cowgirls and Cowboys not only compete in their sport, they live it. It is the nature of the beast that you constantly pour your heart and soul into every horse, bronc or steer, that you willingly drive all night to compete. When you optimistically throw all your chips into the hat and count your skills to go for broke, you show serious signs of being a Cowgirl or Cowboy or at least signs of understanding them.
Once Rodeo life gets in your system, it's hard to quit. You can't give up the people, the fun of competition, the excitement of becoming the best.
When, you put that Cowboy hat on your head, you're representing a lot of tradition.
After all, we were country when country wasn't cool.
Rodeoing and Country/Western are more than a hobby or a type of music or a way to dress. To me it is a way of life. I was born in Texas and raised in New Mexico, so living in a country lifestyle was pretty common. I started riding when I was in second grade, and thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I didn't have a horse of my own, so I rode anyone's who would let me. Finally, when I was in the eighth grade, I got my first horse. He was only fourteen months old, and not broke, so we learned together. We started going to gymkanas, and eventually rodeos.
Twenty-five years ago, much like today, on the straight rodeo circuit there were only certain events that girls and women were allowed to compete in. I tried my hand at barrel racing, pole bending, and goat tying (the girls events), but my young horse and I were both a little too green. Then it happened, my senior year in high school they added girls' steer riding to the high school rodeo circuit. It was great, this was my event. I was a natural at it. I competed all year, never placing lower then third place.
I graduated and went off to college only to be told that I couldn't ride bulls anymore, just run barreis and poles. That last statement is only partially true, I could only compete in barreis and poles.
Occasionally, an all-girls rodeo that I could compete in would come to the area, but they were few and far between. When the college rodeo producers and the local stock contractors discoved how well I rode, they were more than happy to let me ride exhibition. You see there weren't many women bull riders around, so they would advertise on the rodeo posters that they were having an exhibition bull ride by a woman, hoping to draw a bigger gate. I was like a freak show, but it was the only way I could ride, so I let them take advantage of my ability.
This was during the time of the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs challenge so we had our own battle of the sexes, another promotional event. It was between myself and one of the bull riders on the college team. We rode the same two bulls with the best average winning. I came out on top.
In 1976 I quit riding because of an injury and the fact that there was still no place for me to compete. In 1984 I was introduced to gay rodeo. lt was a dream come true. Here was a place that I could be myself and do what I loved most, rodeo. There were thirteen events in which both men and women could compete, bull riding was one of them. It had been eight long years since I had been on a bull, and to top it off, I had quit on an injury, so it was little tough climbing back on that first bull. With a lot of support from my friends and a month and a half of practice I competed in the first Texas gay rodeo. It was great. I bucked off, but it was great. At that time the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) circuit was small, there were only five rodeos a year.
Each rodeo I entered was more fun because I got to know more and more people. We started helping each other and encouraging each other, even if we were competing against each other. It didn't seem to matter if you were a guy or a girl, or what events you were in, or if you were winning or not, we were becoming a family. We worked and competed hard, then we played hard, then we would say good-bye until the next rodeo.
In 1986, at the Denver rodeo, I bad another accident. I zigged when I should ha ve zagged, gota horn in the mouth, and lost four teeth. There was one more rodeo that season, so I went on and competed because I didn't want to quit on an injury again. I ended up being the 1986 women's International Champion Bull Rider and Steer Rider.
Retiring from competition was hard, it bad been such an important par tof my life. I also didn't want to lose contact with all the wonderful pepole I had met. I decided if I wasn't going to compete, I could at least work. I went through the certification programs and became a certified Arena Director and Chute Coordinator. I worked most of the rodeos over the next two years, watehing our organization continue to grow. The leval of competition kept getting tougher and tougher and the quality of expertise of the offleials better. All of this evolved from the continued support and help that came from within the group.
I enjoyed working the rodeos but I found myself really missing the competition. I knew I couldn't compete in the roughstock events anymore so I bought a horse, took roping lessons and started to compete in the other events. At first I bad a little trouble with my ego, you see as a bull rider I was undefeated, I retired on top, coming back in all of these other events as a rookie I knew I would not start out on top. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be though. I got so much support and help from the other contestants. I'm starting my fourth season now, so I guess I'm not a rookie anymore. IGRA has grown tremendously, there are now three divisions with a total of fifteen rodeos this year. The strength of this organization comes from within, the combined knowlege, expertise, and abilities of its membership are staggering. There is comradery like I have never experienced before. Gender is not an issue in this organization. Although the men out number the women in membership, women have held and still hold prominent positions in this organization at both the local and national levels. We have had women serve in the positions of lntemational President and Vice President. There are numerous women that are certified officials. Women serve on the organizational committees and volunteer staffs of the rodeos.
In the past I have served as Chairperson of the International Board of Trustees, sat on the International Board of Directors, chaired the Certification Program for Arena Directors, and served as President at both the chapter and state level of the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association.
Don't get me wrong, this is not a fairytale organization. We have had our problems but we get through them because of our basic belief of equality and our common goal, our love of rodeo. If your looking for your niche, and don't mind being treated like an equal, and you like rodeo, give us a try.
Rodeo Representatives with a New Twist
By Ron Neff, Rodeo Director, Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo
The sport of Rodeo has been around for many years. A very traditional concept that has seen little change, the Rodeo of today is experiencing new ideas. Approximately 11 years ago a select few in the gay community of Denver decided to form their own gay rodeo association. Founded on manyuncertainties and months of trials and tribulation, the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association is now the oldest association of the 16 in the entire International Gay Rodeo circuit.
A different approach to the gay rodeo concept was including the people events known as "camp events." More of a positive emphasis is place on getting people involved in the rodeo activities. The professional rodeo circuit has what is called a "rodeo queen." She is normally viewed as a spokesperson, promoting the western way of life. In addition, she not only adds a more glamorous aspect to the sport of rodeo, but she takes people's minds off the rough and tumble event in the rodeo arena.
The gay rodeo circuit uses a more in-depth approach to publicising itself. Being somewhat diverse, the gay rodeo chooses three different people to hold this publicity title. The diversity allows for 2 males and one female to represent the gay rodeo. All three representatives must be active members in good standing within their own organizations. The titles of the gay rodeo association are "Mr., Ms, and Miss." The title of "Mr." is held by a gay male who represents the male aspect of the rodeo community. The female-Ms-repesents the Lesbian community. And the other male, who is a female impersonator, represents the drag aspect of the community.
More likely than not the Mr. and Ms titles are held by people who are active participants in the rodeo. The Miss is viewed more as a performer for all of the entertainment that takes place at the rodeos.
On the state level, the trio hosts numerous fundraising events for various non-profit gay organizations. The titles are held for one year. Then, upon completion of their year, the trio goes to the International level to compete for the International title. The International competition includes representatives of all the other state organizations. The Mr. and Ms compete in the following three areas: horsemanship, interview and western wear. The Misses compete in talent, interview and western wear.
After winning the international titles, each representative becomes an international ambassador of the gay rodeo association. Not only do the Mr., Ms, and Miss International Gay Rodeo Association promote and uphold the values and ideas of the International Gay Rodeo Association, they also serve as co-chairs of the Public Relations and Fundraising Committee. These duties are fulfilled by the sponsoring and hosting of various fundraising events throughout the rodeo year.
Having one of these titles is demanding to say the least. However, the rewards of a busy schedule of constant dedication are endless. Whether it's seeing old friends or meeting new ones on the rodeo circuit, being an international figure is a worth while experience.
Webmasters note: In 2005 a 4th Royalty position was added, that of MsTer. A woman portraying a man.
By Chris Hochmuth
In this the inaugural edition of Round-Up, I get to write about just about anything I want as long as it has to do with Dance. So, hot topics of the moment seem to include: Couples dancing vs. Line dance; Ball-room two stepvs. Country-Westem two step; where should I.G.R.A. go with it's dance contest. At least those are the hot dance topics l've been confronted with. Lets run with it and see.
Ever been out there on the dance floor dancing with your partner and accidentally (or on purpose!) ran over a couple of guys doing a line dance? Or the other way around? It seems to be a constant battle for the hot new songs. Achy Breaky Heart is a good example, when the song first came out, my dance partner and I thought it was a great shuffle. But as we all know the Videotape of the line dance "Achey Breaky" was hot on the heels of the single.
Now imagine the chaos created on the dance floor of the bar where the "Achey Breaky" is not taught, but almost everybody does it. The song comes on, a group of line dancers forms out in the center of the floor with couples trying to two step shuffle around them. Break out the body bags.
The battle ensues. As I understand it line dances: 1) were created for those people who didn't have a dance partner but still wanted to scoot their boots and 2) are a way for "shy" people to get out on the Dance floor and leam to be comfortable on it. (In much the same way that Goat Dressing and Wild Drag entices new Rodeo Contestants.) So what happens then if your bar/dance hall plays all line dances, 8-10 in a row? You scare off your dance couples because they will never see the floor. Bar owner's don't like this because nowy ou've scared off 50 couples of 2 or 100 paying customers. But if you severely limit the number of line dances then you scare away the singles and potential new dancers.
So what do you do? Where do you compromise? Write me in care of the magazine and tell me what you think. Do we keep 'em all happy or blow one of these groups off?
There seems to be a division among the dance judges (at least the ones I've spoken with) with regards to style of dance that is preferred for competition. Some like the Country-Western style of two-step that seems to emanate from states like Kansas, Minnesota or Arizona better than the Ball-room/A. Murray/F. Astair style that dominates Califomia parts of Texas and Oklahoma. (Here in Colorado we're split pretty evenly.)
I guess that it sort of compares to the old, "which is the real cowboy and which is the dime store cowboy" test. Obviously there is no right or wrong-it's simply a matter of preference. What does become an issue is how much to let that preference dominate the judging, if at all.
Certainly there are judged dance categories which allow for such things as technicality, execution and what-not to be judged separately from style. But how do you keep a judge's bias for a particular style from wiping out a couple of the opposite style who are just as good? Having judged dance contests I can tell you it is hard. When I see a couple whose style I don't care for it is hard to remain objective and say, "Well I don't like their style, but they are (or are not) doing it well." Some people would suggest that one of these styles be picked and that should become the standard for competitions. Touchy subject, let's move on.
An interesting phenomenon showed up in the CGRA Dance contest in Denver, and again last year at the I.G.R.A. finals in Minneapolis. The Amateur couples out danced the Pro-Am and Pro-Pro couples. Apparently these aren't the only places that this happens, or the first time that it's happened, as it was a topic of discussion during the Intemational Dance Committee sessions at Minneapolis.
Currently, the competitions are divided by the definitions of Professional (Pro) and Amateur (Am). The basic difference being whether or not you have ever been compensated for your dancing rather than your experience and ability. There was no doubt in anyone's mind (at the Committee meeting) that this should be changed. Several suggestions for changes were made but we guessed that the major structural changes might not pass the convention floor.
The committee ended up drafting a compromise solution that would pass the floor to begin to address the problem. However, it is not sufficient. The addition of the first time Amateur division should make it easier and more fair to first time couples and those who are more experienced.
No doubt this topic will be foremost on the committee's agenda at convention this summer in Billings. I would be very interested in what ya'll think-what solutions would you have? Please, again, write me in care of RoundUp and let me know.
Lastly, there are a number of associations that are looking for experienced, qualified judges to judge their competitions. They may be able to provide you with nothing more than lunch or dinner the day of the competition, or they may be able to help with your travel and hotel expenses. If you would be interested, please send a letter with your dance qualifications and how you may be contacted to me care of this magazine. As these contests come up and need judges I will forward the lists of judges to the appropriate individual(s). We're always looking for good judges.
I've spoken my mind. If you agree or disagree or want to talk about something else, drop me a note.
Chris is a Realtor by profession and has been a dance instrnctor for 2 years at Charlie's in Denver, Colorado. As a member of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association (CGRA) he has judged the CGRA's dance contest for 2 years and coordinated the contest last year. Recently he has been appointed Chairman of the IGRA Dance Committee for the 92-93 rodeo year.
Imagine 1,100 gay men and lesbians descending over a July 4th weekend on a Southwestern city of some size, but certainly no bastion of sophistication. Among those present, men outnumber women by a considerable factor, but the relationship between the sexes is close and cordial. Beyond that, the crowd includes people of all ages, sizes, and races, and they come from all over the United States and three Canadian provinces.
From the smiles, and hugs, and the hellos around the registration desk of the Hyatt Regency, you would think that the ocasion is some sort of bizarre family reunion, but, if you listen to the conversations or read their T-shirts, you realize that these people have come to dance their butts off for a weekend. Not just to dance, but to square dance. And not just to square dance, but to Gay square dance. You are witnessing the beginning of the 9th annual convention of the International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs (IAGSD) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Gay square dancing began in the early 1980s in the Miami area, when a group of men got together in a local bar to learn to square dance. The group called itself the "South Florida Mustangs." At roughly the same time, other groups formed at the opposite end of the country, principally in San Francisco, Sacramento, Denver, and Seattle. These fledgling square dance groups became acquainted with each other through the granddaddy of gay rodeos, the Reno Rodeo, which many of them attended in 1982.
The Florida Mustangs, as the best established of the groups, issued an invitation to their new square dancing friends to come visit them, and thus the tradition of "fly-ins" was born among gay square dancers. Dancers from three other clubs joined the Mustans over the February 12-13 weekend. Aside from the fun of dancing together, a momentous decision was made that weekend: to establish a national association that would bring together the gay clubs and help foster interest in square dancing in the gay and lesbian community.
Within a short time, the number of clubs nearly doubled, so that when gay square dancers got together again at the 1983 Reno Rodeo, dancers from eleven clubs were present. The square dancers' umbrella organization took the name National Assocition of Gay Square Dance Clubs, but changed the first word to International when the first Canadian club, Squares Across the Border from Vancouver, B.C., became a member.
Early on, the organization decided to hold an annual convention, and Puddletown Squares in Seattle was host to the first one. Today there are some 43 gay square dance clubs spread across the country, plus three Canadian clubs in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver. New clubs are accepted to membership in the IAGSDC at every convention, and the continued growth of gay square dancing seems assured.
Square dancing offers the gay and lesbian community a unique social outlet. It is excellent excercise, and traditionally, smoking and drinking are not permitted in a square dance hall, so it is a throughly healthy endeavor. Men and women meet on grounds different than the ones they are accustomed to, and find that the things that bind them are greater then the ones that divide them.
For the men, square dancing allows an opportunity to meet far from the everpresent sexual pressures in the usual bar scene. When a man asks you to be his partner in a square, you don't have to worry: "Oh, God, is he my type?" All you have to do is dance with him, and say "thank you" at the end of the "tip."
The result is that prejudices such as those usually displayed in the personal ads-"Seeking: WM, age 32 to 33 1/2, Greek passive, French active, into Florsheim wingtips; no fats or ferns need reply"-become immaterial. You get to know the people behind the stereotypes, and find out that ... horrors! ... you actually get to like some of the fat, ferns, or whatever category it was you thought you wanted nothing to do with. Your square dancing friends become the people you go out with to dinner, the movies, or the theater; the ones you call when you are blue; the ones who help lift your morale when a love affair goes sour; the ones by your bedisde when you are ill.
Does gay square dancing differ from straight square dancing? Well, technically no: you have the same four couples to square, and in each couple someone has to dance the boy's part and the girl's part. Straight callers who call for gay events, will tell you, however, that there are some significant differences. Straight square dancers come, of course, in biologically identifiable couples, with each person dancing his or her biologically correct role (and don't even think of switching!). Aside from that, straight square dancers follow a rigid dress code, which usually results in "color-coded" couples, where the man wears a shirt the same color as his partner's dress.
Among gay square dancers, the only dress code seems to be that you have to wear something while you are on the dance floor (well, even that rule is not always observed, but more about that in the future), but that something can be a pair of leather chaps with nothin covering you derriere. As far as the biological sex of the dancers is concerned, a gay square may be composed of 5 men and 3 women, but the 3 women could be dancing the mans's part! It could be a caller's nightmare, since any series of square dance movements is supposed to end with original partners back together again, but callers who adjust to the challenge will tell you there is nothing like calling for a gay event.
The reason, they tell you, is the incredible energy that gay square dancers display and the way they respond to a caller's challenging choreography. Why is the dancers' reaction so different between a gay and a straight event? Well, some observe that straight square dancing is, for the most part, an activity of older, married couples, wheras gay square dancers are signigficantly younger on the average.
That does not account for Stan and Bill from the Sacramento club, however. Both in their seventies now, they have attended all nine annual conventions since the first one in Seattle. They celebrated their 40th anniversary together at the Vancouver convention in 1990, and were the first two people to register for the 1Oth anniversary convention coming this July in Seattle, once again. You'll find them on the dance floor there with everyone else.
A well-known straight national caller, who is half black himself, has a different theory about the energy of gay dancers. He says, that the only place he has found a similar response from the dance floor, has been when he has called for all-black square dance events. In his opinion, the energy is that of people who have been held back their whole lives through, but have finally found something they relly enjoy doing. With the feeling of repression lifted in the activity, the pent up energy just comes rushing through. Maybe he is right.
Luis Torres is a writer, editor, and avid square dancer who lives in San Antonio, Texas.