Competitors from around the world coming to Mesquite for World Gay Rodeo Finals
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
The World Gay Rodeo Finals set for the Mesquite Arena on Oct. 25-28 traces its roots back to a charity rodeo in 1976 in Reno, Nev. that raised money for muscular dystrophy.
Buck Beal, public relations director for the World Gay Rodeo Finals, spoke about the event from his partner Jody’s ranch in Sky Valley, Calif., near Palm Springs, where he was “watering the chickens.”
A huge fan of gay rodeo, Beal said it’s not just for LGBT folks reared in rural areas. In fact, his own background couldn’t be more different. Although his father was from West Texas, Beal was raised in Newport, R.I., where his parents attended the wedding of Jack and Jackie Kennedy. His own interest in horseback riding began when he attended boarding school in Germany in the late 1960s.
But Beal’s involvement in rodeo didn’t begin until much more recently.
“When I met Jody in 2007, I became a victim of love,” Beal said. “His lifestyle has become one of my passions.”
Jody was born in Barstow, Calif., off Route 66. He became a nurse, then a surgical nurse and finally the clinical administrator for the men’s health program at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. That’s also the home of the Betty Ford Clinic.
“He bought the ranch in 1986 or so,” Beal said, describing the property as a homesteading ranch with “dogs, a whole bunch of chickens and three horses.”
Currently, there are about 18 state or regional gay rodeo organizations in the U.S. and Canada — Texas Gay Rodeo Association is the umbrella organization for five local groups from Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and San Antonio, according to the International Gay Rodeo Association.
Beal said the number of groups has dwindled, and formerly active organizations in Los Angeles and San Diego are gone completely. But the groups still here, especially TGRA chapters, are bustling organizations.
One thing that attracts Beal to IGRA events is the diversity, he said, adding, “Some of the best athletes are women,” he said. For instance, he explained, “Bull riding is rough trade,” but some of the best bull riders are “petite” women.
Beal said he really enjoys watching the speed events at rodeos — barrel-racing, flag-racing and roping.
“I saw one guy, Greg Begay, rope a calf in 0.7 seconds,” he said. He added that he’s also seen Begay rope a couple of cowboys he was attracted to — without disturbing their hats. — a very impressive feat on a number of levels, he noted.
Of course, Beal said, his true favorites are the gay rodeo’s own special contests — the camp events.
“My favorite is goat dressing,” in which two people participate, he said, explaining that one competitor carries a pair of skivvies and the other grabs the goat and holds it still so the first competitor can “dress” it with the tightie-whities.
Another popular camp event is the Wild Drag Race, in which one member of the three-person team is dressed in drag. The goal is for the team member in drag to be mounted on the back of a steer while the other two get the steer across the finish line. “It’s only short distance, but there’s a lot of drama,” Beal said. “Oh, and lots of laughter.”
Those event, in one form or another, date back to the very first gay rodeo. “They were added to make our events more fun, because gay events are always designed to be more fun,” Beal said.
One of the features of this year’s world finals rodeo will be a display of Panel 93 from the Sea-to-Sea Pride flag that was created to run the full length of Duval Street in
Key West in 2003 to commemorate the Pride flag’s 25th anniversary. The flag was a mile long, and stretched from the Atlantic Ocean on the island’s east coast, to the Gulf of Mexico on its west coast. Panel 93 was flown over the Obama White House and was hanging outside the U.S. Supreme Court the day of the Obergefell marriage equality decision in 2015.
According to Beal, the finals rodeo has always returned every dollar it has earned to charity, although sometime during the 1980s, the focus changed from muscular dystrophy to AIDS.
This year, the variety of beneficiaries include the Trevor Project; Wish for Wings, a wish-granting agency for Texas children fighting life-threatening conditions; 4 Paws 4 Patriots, matching shelter dogs with vets needing service animals; and Joyful Heart Foundation, which heals, educates and empowers survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
Money raised in a special Going Pink for Rodeo campaign will go to The Moncrief Center in Fort Worth, which provides mammograms for the uninsured.
World Gay Rodeo Finals
1818 Rodeo Drive, Mesquite
Oct. 25: Royalty Competition at 7 p.m.
Oct. 26: Opening ceremonies at 7 p.m.
Oct. 27: Rodeo from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. $20 at the gate
Oct. 28: Rodeo from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. $20 at the gate
Oct. 28: Awards dinner at 7 p.m. and ceremony at 8 p.m.