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Home > Blog > The History of Gay Rodeo in Mesquite, Texas

The History of Gay Rodeo in Mesquite, Texas

For more than 60 years, Mesquite has famously been the home of thrilling rodeo events as the official Rodeo Capital of Texas, but did you know we were also home to the 2018 gay rodeo championship? From their dirty boots and ripped jeans to their big belt buckles and a hint of glitter, the gay rodeo is just as rough and tumble as any other rodeo in town! Read on to learn more about gay rodeo’s history, how it differs from your everyday rodeo, and how Mesquite plays its role as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

The Beginning of Gay Rodeo

While the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA), founded in 1985, is now the largest organization to host LGBTQ+-friendly rodeos, the history of the gay rodeo goes back further than that. On October 2, 1976, the very first gay rodeo was held at the Washoe County Fairgrounds in Reno, Nevada. The popularity of the Reno gay rodeo grew throughout the early ’80s, with some events drawing crowds of over 10,000 spectators. Unfortunately, the onset of the AIDS crisis caused unfair stigmas to circle around the gay community as attendance numbers plummeted in the following year, and the last official gay rodeo in Reno — at that time, known as the Comstock Reno Rodeo — was held in 1984.

Overcoming the adversity of the time, groups in states such as Colorado, California, Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma began hosting their own gay rodeo events and officially formed what we know today as the IGRA.

How Does the Gay Rodeo Differ from the Average Rodeo

Like any other rodeo, the IGRA hosts programs of rough stock events such as bronc riding and bull riding, roping events, and speed events. The difference is the mission behind their rodeos and events. In addition to supporting sportsmanship amongst its athletes, the IGRA works to break stereotypes and positively promote the LGBTQ+ community within the country’s western lifestyle.

Mesquite’s Hosting of the 2018 Gay Rodeo World Finals

Being a proud ally of the LGBTQ+ community, Mesquite was humbled to host the IGRA’s 2018 Gay Rodeo World Finals. Competitors traveled from all over the country to attend the gay rodeo in Mesquite. Every night ended with a bit of food, music, and dancing — all in the hopes of building community and raising funds for charity.

Mesquite was happy to uphold the life-affirming tradition of the IGRA’s late founder, Phil Ragsdale: the gay rodeo “is for gay people first, charity second, and for anyone who wants to come and have a good time alongside us.”

Learn more about Mesquite’s solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community here.


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