Moving backwards through my weekend, the most interesting thing I did was attend the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association Show-Me State Rodeo on Saturday. One of my friends has been competing on the circuit for the last few years and I'd been waiting for a chance to go to one nearby.
I missed his first event, calf roping. The rodeo events began two hours earlier than originally scheduled because there were so many competitors registered. I did get to see him compete in the chute dogging event (catching a young steer as it leaves the chute and wrestling it to the ground).
The majority of the events were traditional rodeo competitions: roping, riding and wrangling, you might say. There were three "camp" events: steer decorating (tying a ribbon on a steer's tail while your teammate tries to remove the rope looped over its horns), wild drag race (cowboy and cowgirl or drag queen team directs a steer across a finish line, mounts the "drag" on the steer and rides back across the finish line), and goat dressing (two-person team runs 50 feet to where a goat is tethered, picks up the goat, puts jockey-style underwear over the animal's hindquarters and runs back to the starting line).
The only camp event I saw was goat dressing, which elicited a certain amount of disdain from the cowboys seated near me. Judging by the apparent dangerousness of many of the events, I think they considered it too silly and too tame. Steer decorating and wild drag are kind of silly, too, but also carry a fair amount of risk.
I hadn't been to a rodeo in a quite a few years, and I noticed that there's now a great deal of safety gear available for participants. My friend has broken several ribs and a collarbone since he began competing, so he wears a heavy vest to keep steer horns from damaging his midsection. I also saw some helmets worn during events likely to dash the rider to the ground. Not everyone takes advantage of the extra gear. Plenty of competitors had nothing between them and potential injury except cowboy hats and western shirts.
I couldn't help looking for things that made a gay rodeo different than the other rodeos I've attended, but what was most striking was how little difference there was. The riderless horse ceremony took on an added dimension of poignancy in the context of the AIDS epidemic, but the National Anthem and opening prayer were about as traditional as you'd expect in any red state rodeo.
If you're interested in going to one, the International Gay Rodeo Association website lists all of its member organizations' scheduled rodeos for the year. It was a great way to spend a morning and afternoon (I finally took off when it got really hot, even in the shade). The next time I go, I hope I can stick around for all the events.