A gay rodeo or LGBT rodeo is a rodeo that is centered around the participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or other riders (generally known as gay cowboys), participants and spectators. The proceeds of gay rodeos have traditionally gone to charities.
The first gay rodeo is said to have been organized by Phil Ragsdale (then "Emperor I of Reno" in the Imperial Court System) in 1975, and took place on October 2, 1976 at Washoe County Fairgrounds near Reno, Nevada; after being renamed as the National Reno Gay Rodeo, it ran for seven more years until it succumbed to conflicts with the fairgrounds, but retained a hefty attendance throughout its run.
In Colorado, the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association was formed to send a delegation of contestants to the Reno rodeo. It elected its first officers on September 13, 1981, and membership was opened on December 1, 1981. Among the many features of the CGRA delegation to the 1982 Reno rodeo were:
- the first mounted gay drill team,
- the Mile High Square Dancers,
- the Denver Country Cloggers,
- candidates for the Mr., Ms., and Miss titles
- 43 rodeo contestants, which comprised two-thirds of the contestants for that rodeo.
However, after having encountered the seemingly-lax standards of the Reno rodeo, the CGRA decided to send an exploratory committee to Texas on the establishment of both an association and rodeo in Texas. However, the delegation received a reply from the gay communities of all the five largest cities to host a rodeo in Colorado.
The Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo was first held in Aurora on June 3, 1983. Participants from California and Texas arrived to participate in the rodeo, and around 390 attendees had arrived by the opening of the rodeo.
The Texas Gay Rodeo Association was organized after that year's Gay Pride Parade, and the state's first gay rodeo was held in November 1984.
The Pacific Coast Gay Rodeo Association, which had presented contestants from the West coast to Reno, was loosely organized; thus, the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association was formed in 1984 by Al Bell (the owner of "Floyd's" in Long Beach) and Pat McGrath (who organized the Floyd's Cloggers dance troupe). The first gay rodeo in the state was begun in March 1985, and was held at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank.
Arizona Gay Rodeo Association was formed in December 1984, and the first gay rodeo in the state was held in January 1986 on the south side of Phoenix at a Mexican Charro rodeo arena with an attached dance hall known as the Corona Ranch.
The International Gay Rodeo Association was formed in 1985 by a voluntary federation of the state associations of Colorado, Texas, California and Arizona. The first act of the first IGRA convention was to recognize the membership of the Oklahoma Gay Rodeo Association, which was formed that year. The 1986 convention extended recognition to the Kansas Gay Rodeo Association (KGRA), the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association (MGRA), and the New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association (NMGRA).