Gay rodeo has come to the Kansas City area around Labor Day for more than 20 years. But this year, the gates will not open for the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association event. Earlier this summer, the MGRA board made the difficult decision to postpone it.
Gay rodeo began in the 1970s as an organization dedicated to breaking LGBT stereotypes and bringing gender equality to rodeos all across the country. Since its founding in 1986, the MGRA has been one of the stronger gay rodeo associations in the United States. After several years of fundraising and joint events with the Oklahoma and Kansas gay rodeo associations, the MGRA first hosted its own rodeo, the Show-Me State Rodeo, in 1993.
Since then, the MGRA has established itself as a major rodeo on the gay rodeo circuit, and competitors travel to Missouri from all over the world to compete and to rack up points for the finals in Las Vegas. Although many gay rodeos have funds sufficient only to hold events every other year or every few years, the MGRA has managed to organize successful rodeos almost every year since 1993.
Rodeo director and president Jack Truman is devastated by the community’s loss of the 2015 rodeo. A longtime competitor in the bronc and buck-riding events, Truman has lived and breathed rodeo for almost his entire life. Fans of gay rodeo might know him better as Trixie, his “Vegas girl” drag queen alter ego who appears in events such as the wild drag race.
For the last several years, Truman and his partner have done a great deal of the fundraising necessary to hold the annual Missouri gay rodeo. Unfortunately, Truman fell ill this year and was unable to raise the money needed to put on the rodeo. Without his fundraising expertise, the MGRA board and members were not able to secure sufficient funds to host this year’s event.
In spite of this year’s unfortunate postponement, the MGRA board is confident that the rodeo will return in 2016, as strong as ever. They believe that the cancellation has served as an eye-opener to the community, to the MGRA, and to gay rodeos across the nation. Postponed rodeos are a somewhat common occurrence, and with a little extra work, many gay rodeo associations are able to return with full force after a year or two.
In order for the rodeo to take place in 2016, perhaps the most important step will be a commitment to patronize the businesses and organizations that serve as prospective sponsors, organizers say. An earlier start in fundraising efforts, more corporate sponsors, and larger, more widespread commitment will all play a significant role in the future of the MGRA.
The regional gay rodeo associations, such as MGRA, are part of the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) Ryan Reed, IGRA director of public relations, says the MGRA’s success will depend largely on volunteers from the community.
“Even if you think you don’t know how to put on a rodeo, that’s not what we need,” said Reed, who also competes in gay rodeos across the country. “We need bodies and people willing to work.”
Despite the absence of this year’s Missouri gay rodeo, the MGRA has accomplished one major triumph in 2015: The association has recently been given 501(c)(3) status, qualifying it as a tax-exempt charitable organization. The tax-exempt status will help the MGRA obtain more corporate sponsors in the coming years, which should help future rodeo leaders achieve their fundraising goals.
Rodeo organizers say they will be hosting other events and fundraisers during the next year to prepare for the 2016 rodeo. To volunteer with MGRA or learn more about future events, check out its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MGRA.showmestaterodeo or its website at www.mgra.us.