Steer Decorating, Wild Drag, Goat Dressing, Barrel Races, Pole Bending and Flag Races – – these are some of the well-known events at the annual Show-Me State Rodeo. They rely on competitors, of course, but just as important are the arena crew members, who are managed by people like Kami Boles, keeping the events on schedule.
Wearing flour on your clothes is only one of the side effects of doing this work. The crew uses flour to mark the lines in the arena for the events instead of chalk, because it’s safer for the animals.
“I always play around putting handprints on people,” Boles said when describing her look in this photo with Jason Strand, a bull rider who was dressed for the Wild Drag event. “So when I came out of the arena, he did a sneak attack and dumped a pitcher on me. … I then, of course, had to retaliate.”
Boles, 27, hales from Gardner, Kansas, although she now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She’s been involved with the rodeo since 2009. “Out, loud and proud,” as she described herself.
Boles said that she very quickly got into the royalty side of the rodeo. “In 2010, I was a candidate for Ms. MGRA, in 2011, I was Ms. MGRA, and in 2012, I was Ms. IGRA,” she said.
Boles is also the chair for the Women’s Outreach Committee with the International Gay Rodeo Association. Her message to any women who may be on the fence about getting involved is: “Don’t be afraid. With gay rodeo, they can do anything the guys can do.”
She just returned from Gay Games 9 in Ohio and said it was exciting because it was the first time they held a gay rodeo in Ohio and now there’s talk about starting a regional gay rodeo there. It was also the first time the rodeo has been part of the Gay Games.
“The rodeo director has worked on it for two years now, getting it all set up,” she said. “We went to the opening ceremonies, and it was awesome and the red and white took over the stadium, “she said when describing how all the different rodeo organizations marched in wearing red shirts and white hats. “We also walked in the closing ceremonies on Saturday.”
Boles said she will have participated in nine regional rodeos this year. Generally, she said, she coordinates the work of the arena volunteers and rodeo setup, but it varies by rodeo.
“I really like being in the arena and working all the events and actually having a purpose, other than competing,” she said. “I love it — playing in the dirt.”
The beneficiary of the Show Me State Rodeo is Passages, Kansas City’s LGBT youth group.
Boles says, “Everything we do is to raise money for our charities. We’re trying to support our communities around us.”
When not at the rodeo, she works as a massage therapist. “I can, for the most part, make my own hours. It works out pretty good. I have a very understanding boss who is supportive about giving me the time off. And I just make up my hours when I return.”
Like many in the rodeo, she has suffered injuries. She said she once fell off a horse when doing a non-event video and broke her hip. And, she added, with a laugh: “In competing and in volunteering, I had a run-in with a goat and the goat won.”
She encourages people new to the rodeo to volunteer. “They can volunteer all the way up to the day of,” she said.
Boles said she used to watch the rodeo from the stands until she got hooked on volunteering. “Once you’re in the dirt, you’re in the dirt,” she said. “Rodeo’s in our blood. Once you’re in it, you’re stuck.”
Photo: Brent Rosinski