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Celebrating LGBTQ sports history: First gay rodeo

SB Nation logo SB Nation 3 days ago Dawn Ennis
a group of people riding on the back of a horse

Every day this month, we’re looking back at our pioneers, the mark they left on our community and on the sports world, plus landmark events and stories that show Courage Is Contagious.

Today, we travel back to 1976 and the first gay rodeo! This was published Aug. 20, 2011:

First gay rodeo

By Jim Buzinski

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. — Jim Buzinski

We’ll have another LGBTQ Sports history story tomorrow and every day through Oct. 31.

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