Moment #35: First gay rodeo

Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.

Rodeo, 1976: Phil Ragsdale of Reno, Nev., scrambled to get livestock for the first gay rodeo after he could not find ranchers willing to sell for a gay event. Finally, the night before, Ragsdale managed to buy "five cows, ten calves, and one Shetland pony."

Even though only 150 people attended, the rodeo drew attention from gay communities throughout the West.

The event became known as the National Reno Gay Rodeo, sponsored by the Comstock Gay Rodeo Association, and over the next several years drew larger and larger crowds and raised tens of thousands of dollars for such charities as the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, Nevada Services to the Blind, and the Veterans Administration hospital in Reno. Inspired by what was happening in ordinarily conservative Nevada, gay rodeo associations were founded in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, California, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wyoming. In 1985, the International Gay Rodeo Association [IGRA] was founded.

The first several gay rodeos were marred by a conservative backlash in Nevada, and attempts to have the 1982 event canceled failed and 10,000 people showed up with Joan Walsh as grand marshal.

IGRA is now a thriving organization with 5,000 members and 27 local associations.

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