See Drag Racing on Steers and Undies on Goats at the Arizona Gay Rodeo in Laveen | Phoenix New Times
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See Drag Racing on Steers and Undies on Goats at the 37th Annual Arizona Gay Rodeo

The 37th annual event in Laveen has a little something for everyone.
Arizona Gay Rodeo patrons with Piper M'Shay.
Arizona Gay Rodeo patrons with Piper M'Shay. Mark Boyd
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Giddyap for the 37th annual Arizona Gay Rodeo this weekend, February 17 through 19 at Corona Ranch in Laveen, which promises to showcase more than the typical western traditions.

“It’s a big party, it’s a big festival,” says Mark Boyd, public relations director for the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association (AGRA). He describes it as “kind of akin to Pride and Rainbow Festival and all that; it just happens to be a real live rodeo at the same time.”

There’ll be 13 events such as bull riding, steer riding, calf roping, pole bending, team roping, and others that rodeo fans will recognize. But this rodeo also features three “camp” events: goat dressing, steer decorating, and wild drag race.

Each of the categories uses a two-person team. In goat dressing, Boyd explains, the team has a certain timeframe to run, get their goat, and put a pair of underpants on it. “It’s literally people putting underwear on goats,” he states.

Steer decorating involves putting a ribbon on a steer’s tail, and in the wild drag race, the team — which is dressed in drag — has to get on the steer and ride it to the finish line.

“All the other events are standard events like you’d see at any other professional rodeo,” Boyd says, and include competitors who are gay and transgender. “Everyone’s welcome to compete and everybody’s welcome to attend.”

All activities are family-friendly; Boyd says nothing is above a PG rating. The rodeo events are in the arena, and county fair-style Games on the Green will take place on the grass outside the pavilion from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Inside the pavilion, vendors will sell everything from blankets and Western hats to T-shirts, candles, and more. Food and alcohol is available on-site as well, and AGRA will raffle off three iPhone 14 Pros along with gift certificates for a variety of businesses.

The pavilion is also the center for live entertainment, which kicks off Friday with a concert by Banda La Finikera at 9 p.m.; gates open at 8 p.m.

However, “Saturday is the biggest day for entertainment,” Boyd says, featuring the Phoenix Gay Men’s Chorus, Mr. and Mrs. Phoenix Gay Pride, Tucson Takeover, Nine Lions Dragon Dance, Indigenous Enterprise, Banda La Llegadora, celebrity impersonators, and more starting at 11 a.m.

Sunday includes Barbra Seville’s Phoenix Phollies, Dan Dan the Puppet Man, Madame Fellatia Monroe, and special guests, along with many others, culminating in an awards ceremony and party. Both days will feature royalty from AGRA and the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA).

And everything is for a good cause: The Arizona Gay Rodeo is run by volunteers and raises money for LGBTQ charities in the community — everything from the Phoenix Gay Men’s Chorus to sports mentoring for LGBTQ athletes. Usually, it raises about $20,000, but last year, it raked in $70,000, which was distributed to nine organizations.

One of the main sponsors, Charlie’s Phoenix — the iconic gay bar that opened in 1984 — is owned by John King, a founder of AGRA. It’ll run party buses from the bar to the rodeo grounds and includes entertainment and drag queens on the ride.

“Part of the fun is getting to the rodeo,” Boyd says.

The Arizona Gay Rodeo has grown since its inaugural event in January of 1986, says rodeo director and AGRA president Ron Trusley. “I think we’ve grown substantially over the years,” he says. “We have a lot more vendors now. We have much more of a variety of entertainment going on. And different contestants now,” though he adds the circuit could use more younger competitors.

Many things have improved for the LGBTQ community since gay rodeos began, Boyd says.

“When it started out in the late '70s and early '80s, there was absolutely no space at all for the LGBTQ community,” he notes. “They were shut out of sports and rodeos for the longest time. It’s given a lot of people a great sense of camaraderie and belonging. It’s definitely a safe space — one that I’m thankful for.”

Everyone can come and be themselves at the Arizona Gay Rodeo, Boyd adds. “No matter who you are, what you’re into, what you look like, you can all have fun at the rodeo,” he says.

Tickets are sold online at agra-phx.com and at the ticket booth on-site; kids 12 and under are free. Parking is $5. No outside food or drinks allowed, nor are pets — service animals only. The full schedule and more details are online.
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