By BRIAN SUBER
Friday, July 16, 2004
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Members of the Georgia Gay Rodeo Association have enjoyed a busy, high profile summer leading up to next week’s Southern Spurs Rodeo ’04.
Members were special guests at the popular PALS Bingo game last week. They commandeered the infamous Fur Bus for sprees through Midtown in June, and they garnered first place for a non-profit entry in last month’s Atlanta Pride parade.
The July 23-25 Southern Spurs competition at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers is organized by the GGRA and features ropers and riders from around the country competing for cash prizes and gay rodeo association points.
Like college and high school rodeos, gay competitions are open to both sexes.
“This year, we will host 70 to 75 contestants that have historically been equal between men and women, and hundreds of spectators from around the country,” says Carvie Gillikin, GGRA president. “Spectators will see men and women coming together to share an incredible passion for the country western lifestyle, an incredible passion for animals and an incredible passion for equality.”
Competitors are scheduled to vie in 13 events, including roping and speed events, rough stock events like bareback and bull riding, and camp events such as goat dressing, steer decorating and the popular wild drag race.
Another popular event is singular to the Georgia gay rodeo. The Scarlet O’Hara race on Sunday afternoon lets any southern belle enter a free-for-all to save the most treasure from a replica of Tara as it burns.
After a day of riding and roping, competitors are set to kick up their heels to the country sounds of Dean & Lee on Friday night and Southern Stomp with D.J. Shane on Saturday at host hotel Doubletree Hotel Atlanta/Buckhead.
Top competitors will be feted at an awards ceremony on Sunday.
Rodeo has experienced an increase in popularity among gay enthusiasts, according to a study released this year by the University of Florida.
In addition to a surge in female, Native American and African American rodeo participants, gay groups across the country are also revitalizing rodeo traditions to reflect their distinctive culture, the study says.
For the study, University of Florida professor Jamie Johnson participated in 25 nontraditional rodeos and conducted interviews.
Just as cowboys staked out the frontier, minority groups are claiming their American identity by saying that they, too, played a part, Johnson told the University of Florida News.
The International Gay Rodeo Association has 20 member associations in the U.S. and Canada. Georgia Gay Rodeo representatives said they are seeing an increase in involvement in rodeo by a cross-section of people.
GGRA points leaders compete in the International Gay Rodeo Association against top contestants from gay rodeos across North America. Top competitors from regional events go head-to-head in October at the IGRA Finals in Omaha.
Georgia’s Gay Rodeo Association is a 120-member group that includes rodeo competitors as well as non-competing supporters. In addition to the Southern Spurs rodeo, the GGRA sponsors cookouts, pool parties, local events and out-of-town trips for members.
“People see that this is a great organization that allows people to find a group of friends and to feel comfortable and belong,” Gillikin says.
This year’s rodeo raises money for Childkind, Inc. and Grady IDP Pediatrics Clinic. Since its inception, the non-profit GGRA has raised more than $70,000 for select charities, according to organizers.