September 23rd, 2005


Rodeo Reportage

For the last few years kproche and I have been attending the GSGRA Bay Area Chapter Regional Rodeo.

Gay Rodeo is suprisingly like any other amateur rodeo, except at the parties at night guys are two-steppin' with guys and they're all line-dancin' to songs that you would never expect to hear in a country bar. I don't think there was a line-dance to Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax but there could have been.

So that sets a certain tone of silliness that, in spite of competition in serious events such as bull riding and barrel racing, permeates the weekend.

K and I were also buckle sponsors this year and last year (overall winner for an event gets a fancy belt-buckle; it's ever so western), so we had invitations to the hospitality suite on Friday night. That, of course, meant that we had to get up to San Francisco and the Cathedral Hill Hotel. By 7:00. On a Friday night. From San Jose. Traffic was not atrocious; we took 280 up and then cut into the city on Delores, but it still took us about an hour and a half. Good thing we both left work at 3:30, because we finally got moving in time to arrive at the Cathedral Hill and check in a bit before 7:00.

The Cathedral Hill (or, as most natives call it, "The old Jack Tar") isn't a dump, but it's definitely an older hotel. It's also not going to be around much longer. The whole block and several surrounding blocks are scheduled for demolition in a little over a year; there's a new Sutter Hospital going up. I wonder if anybody is going to say "Yeah, I'm going in for a triple-bypass at the old Jack Tar."

John Carillo and Doug Graff did a great job with hospitality; John is in the restaurant business and used to work in hotel management, so he knows everybody in the biz in San Francisco. We had cocktails, lamb chops, cheese and little savory pastry hors d'oeuvre waiting in the hospitality suite when we got there. We also found a huge gang of Canadians waiting; the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association and Team Money-Pennies had sent over a dozen people down to compete and work on the rodeo. The Canadians were a blast all weekend.

After enough hospitality, we headed down to the Friday night dance. It was a lot of fun, but the drink prices were ruinous ($8 for a well gin-and-tonic). I ended up talking for a bit with an Academy of Art film student doing a documentary on gay rodeo, and then we pretty much crashed.

Saturday morning we got up early enough to get to the rodeo well before the grand entrance. This is kind of a big deal; while the hotel and parties are in San Francisco, the rodeo itself is at Driscoll Ranches between San Gregorio and La Honda. It's an hour drive from SF when traffic is good. On the other hand, the drive is worth it; the grounds are beautiful and the facility is superb.

This year's Rodeo Grand Marshall(s) was The Imperial Court of San Francisco, and when they were called up for the grand entrance, Emperor John-Richard hauled K along for the ride in the truck when they were presented. The Cow Palace Cowgirls Precision Drill Team once again returned to perform for the crowd, this year in a rainbow of satin blouses (perhaps they thought they were less likely to get mugged over those than the sequined shirts they wore last year). They are oh-so-fabulous.

We finally got to watch Goat Dressing. Yeah, it's the second year we've sponsored the buckle, and we finally saw it. I'm not going to explain here; check out the gallery.

Pole Bending was pretty cool. No, despite the innuendo-laden name, it's not a camp event, it's a high-speed slalom on a horse. It's "Pole Bending" because, like in skiing, you're fine as long as you don't knock over the markers.

We skipped Steer Riding to go get some food, but made it back in time to watch some Barrel Racing. Like Pole Bending, it's a high-speed skilled race where horse and rider complete a circuit of three barrels without tipping them over. There were some women who turned in really good times in Barrel Racing.

We also watched a bit of Wild Drag, a crazy event that combines Chute Dogging, Steer Riding, and in some cases the worst drag you've ever seen. A cowboy, a cowgirl and a contestant in drag are arrayed in the arena. The cowboy has a halter attached to a steer in the chute, and has to get the steer across a line where the cowgirl is waiting. Once the steer is across that line, both of them can work to get the second line where the "drag" is waiting. She's got to get on the back of the steer and the cowboy and cowgirl have to get the steer back over the second line with the drag still on its back. Risky? Yes. Silly? Very.

After Wild Drag we decided to head back up to the city and get a touch of dinner before the Saturday night dance.

The entertainment team had decided to try something different this year, and it only kind-of worked. In addition to having a country dance in the main ballroom, they had a "high energy" dance and entertainment in the second ballroom. This is apparently a very popular event at the Dallas Gay Rodeo, but response was mixed here. Some folks were looking for the songs & drag show that we've had in the past, but I think the biggest problem is that in San Francisco, if people go to a rodeo they're looking for country; there are plenty of dance clubs in the city that cater to the "high energy" crowd.

Sunday morning we slept in a bit, packed up, and headed back to the rodeo. We caught the grand entrance again, and watched a bit more Barrel Racing before watching the second day's Goat Dressing.

After that we went home. We didn't have a room for Sunday night, and going home to drop off stuff made sense. It also left us a few hours to rest and recover before going back up to SF for the awards ceremony (which didn't start until 9:00pm).

The ceremony actually started on schedule. Well, that would be surprised if we hadn't run into the assistant rodeo director when we stopped for lunch earlier; we were heading home while he was heading north to make sure everything was ready.

Awards were given. When it came time to give out the Goat Dressing awards, we went up and snagged the buckles and waited for names to be called. It was pretty convenient; as it turned out Doug and John won the buckle, so we didn't have to worry about finding the right faces in the crowd of teams who had placed either day. When it was all over, we headed back home for some needed sleep.