Gay rodeos have been around for a while now and are held each year in several cities throughout the U.S. They are especially popular in the South and West in places like Austin and Vegas. Each of these individual rodeos that happen all year are part of an official gay rodeo circuit under the jurisdiction of the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA). And then comes the big finale in the fall. The IGRA World Gay Rodeo Finals are just around the corner, folks!
On October 27–29, 2023, the top cowboys and cowgirls in 13 events will travel from all corners of the continent to El Reno, OK to compete for the top championship titles at the 35th annual IGRA World Gay Rodeo Finals.
So how does a gay rodeo differ from a straight one? One unique part is that gay rodeos break stereotypes and remind us that the spirit of the Wild West is alive in every one of us with both men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, competing together to show off their talents in events like bull riding, barrel racing, team roping, and bronc riding. Additionally, two events — Goat Dressing and the Wild Drag Race, where a team of three attempts to mount a fully dressed drag queen onto an uncooperative steer — have been created specifically for the gay rodeo. And of course, you’ll never see a male “Miss Rodeo” at a straight rodeo.
The IGRA World Gay Rodeo Finals kicks off with kings and queens battling it out for the prestigious titles of Mr., Mister, Miss, and Ms. International Gay Rodeo Association. Personally, I think the title should go to whoever can belt out the best rendition of Joan Crawford’s famous line “This ain’t my first time at the rodeo,” but they didn’t consult us. Anyway, the actual rodeo competitions kick off at 10 a.m. sharp on both Saturday and Sunday and keep the excitement going until the last event wraps up around 4 p.m.
Tickets for the rodeo are available online or at the door for $15 per day or $25 for the weekend.
Here are some of the events you can expect to see at the World Gay Rodeo Finals:
Chute Dogging (aka Steer Wrestling)
The contestant has to beat the clock and take down a 500-pound horned steer. Once the steer is down on its side, with all four feet pointing in the same direction, the rodeo judge signals time. The one with the fastest time takes home the win!
Bareback Bronc Riding
Not that kind of bareback. In this challenge, the brave contestant takes on the thrilling task of riding an 1100-pound bucking bronco for a solid six seconds. No reins, saddle, or stirrup allowed. It’s a true test of strength, form, and spurring action. Meanwhile, the horse is being closely observed for its power and bucking pattern. But here’s the catch: if the contestant gets bucked off before the six-second whistle, it’s game over, disqualified.
One of the most fiercely contested events in rodeo is also the most thrilling! Just like bronc riding, the rider hangs on with one hand, gripping a heavy rope while the bull violently bucks, twists, and leaps. You’ve probably seen something on Sean Cody that resembles this.
The granddaddy of all rodeo events, this is a showdown between a speedy, nimble calf and a roper with serious skills, whether they’re on foot or riding a top-notch horse. The trick is snagging the critter, and the contestant just has to yank on the rope, not halt the beast.
In this event, which started on the open range, two cowhands work as a team to rope and stretch a steer in the fastest possible time. This one gives Brokeback Mountain vibes.
This sounds more painful than it is. Competing for the fastest time, horse and rider work a linear pattern through 6 six-foot-high poles spaced 21 feet apart. Penalties are assessed if a pole is knocked down; and if the rider breaks the pattern, he or she is disqualified.
In this event, created especially for gay rodeos, teams of two have to catch a goat tethered to a stake by a 10-foot rope and fit a pair of men’s jockey shorts onto its back legs. Fastest time wins. I’m guessing they’re not using Andrew Christian underwear for this.
Of course, a gay event is going to have a decorating component. The object is to tie a ribbon around a wild steer’s tail. One contestant dogs the steer while the other ties the ribbon on the tail and then races on foot across a finish line.
Wild Drag Race
Only in Gay Rodeo! Three people — a man, a woman, and a drag queen — form each team. The cow is in the chute with a halter and a rope. The cowgirl is on the other end of the rope. The cowboy and dragster are positioned 40 feet from the chute. When the chute opens, the cowgirl attempts to hold the steer while the cowboy tries to put the drag queen on the steer. The mounted steer must cross the finish line halfway down the arena. You won’t see this on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
So, folks, there you have it — fun, competition, and a whole lot of cowboy boots! The IGRA World Gay Rodeo Finals is not just an event, they’re a celebration of diversity, talent, and good ol’ western spirit, packed with as much glitter as grit. And are hot, sweaty, and exciting fun!
Whether you’re a rodeo veteran or just looking for a wild weekend, this is a spectacle you wouldn’t want to miss. So wrangle up your gang, grab your tickets and experience the magic of the rodeo! After all, who says you can’t mix spurs with sequins?