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Over Cinco De Mayo weekend things are going to heat up in the valley, and I’m not just talking about the mercury.
The Palm Springs GSGRA Hot Rodeo will be in the valley, or to be more accurate – at the A.C. Dysart Equestrian Center in Banning, on Saturday and Sunday, May 5 & 6, starting at 8 am and 9 am respectively. Besides the rodeo and western dance held on the rodeo grounds; there are a bunch of other fun activities!
Like the Men of HomoRodeo cowboy/leather fashion show at Ivy Palms Hotel, the HomoRodeo Meet/Greet at Tool Shed Friday Night, the Hot Rodeo Dance at DiGS Bar in Cathedral City Saturday night, and finally the Sunday after party at Hunters promises to be a bucking good time! For full details click HERE.
Whether you’re a little bit country or just an Urban cowboy, this year’s Hot Rodeo is going to be sizzzling.
I got a chance to sit down with this year’s Mr. Hot Rodeo, Ed Hamilton, to get details straight from the horse’s mouth, (er, figuratively of course), about stereotypes and gay rodeo’s focus upon animal care.
The BottomLine: Ed, what are your duties as Mr. Hot Rodeo?
Ed Hamilton: So as royalty, I have duties across the board here in Palm Springs to represent the face of the rodeo. We’re the people going out to the bars and any events and anything in the city to help support the sport of rodeo and specifically, our rodeo. And to remind people that we are a diverse group of people and we are here for multiple purposes, but the main purpose is to help raise funds and awareness for people.
You do charity work too.
Correct. This past summer we did a couple events for the Desert Aids Project. In 2012 we took on Paws and Hearts of the Desert and the Banning Youth Foundation as our beneficiaries for the year.
As an international group, the Breast Cancer Awareness Program, and The Trevor Project are our number one beneficiaries for our efforts. So that’s what we do. Now we also play and have fun and we educate people on rodeo and the western lifestyle. We represent by our actions and activities and how we present ourselves. That’s attraction. We hope that we are doing a good job of that. Really, it’s all about helping our community build and forge relationships within it. And, to put out a positive view of who we are to the rest of the world. We’ve been around forever, they just didn’t know it.
What I like is, there is so much diversity within the LGBT community that gay rodeo helps break stereotypes. It’s nice to show another side of our community.
Absolutely. They can be hairdressers by day and a cowboy by weekend. If you take a cross section of the United States, everybody has their three lifestyles. The job and how they are in that job, how they are with their family, and what they do for fun. They don’t always look the same. A lot of people do, and good for them, but we’re just like everybody else. We have our day job, and our nightlife and our weekend life.
For people like me, we have our western lifestyle. For me, I grew up in the great state of Texas. My father was a farrier – we had horses always around us. My father was a big breed farrier so we had Belgiums – big, big horses. I was two years old when he put me on top of a horse. I thought that’s how you were supposed to do it. I didn’t know any better. So growing up in that environment I never knew anything different. I was very fortunate my family was very open to who I was. I got to be who I was from a long time ago and in Texas back in the 1960’s and 1970’s that wasn’t necessarily normal.
But I played football, I played baseball, I rode bulls in high school in our high school rodeo association. It’s just who I was. Then I moved and learned that people don’t think that’s normal. It was hard you know.
This little Texan walked in to New York City and thought “Well, howdy, y’all, how y’all doing?” And nobody really knew how to take me at that point. So when I discovered gay rodeo I thought, ‘that makes sense.’ I know that there was more than just me. And I know that people have always accepted me because I am exactly who I am. Always. And it’s never changed. That western lifestyle is who I am, it’s how I think, it’s how I judge people and how I look at life and I’m one of many.
The beauty of going to all the different gay rodeos, and IGRA convention and going to IGRA University is you talk to people who live and breathe this western lifestyle on a day-to-day basis and they think the same way. There are a whole bunch of people out there who think the same way and haven’t caught up with us. So we promote it, we advise it, we fling ourselves out there wherever we need to be to remind those that are looking for like-minded people, and those that aren’t even aware of us, that we are there. It promotes diversity in a very unique way. People never think about that until they are presented with it.
I know a lot of people have concerns about the animals involved. Especially, in this great state of California – a lot of PETA. How’s does gay rodeo differ when it comes to animal care?
So, if you look at the PRCA they move their rodeos within about two to three hours. They have huge stock contractors that push lots of bulls, lots of cattle, lots of horses through. The objective of those stock contractors is to have the meanest/baddest/whatever that are available because in that arena, the animal and the rider are being judged. It’s all really, really about speed. On the professional level people get hurt a lot and the animals get hurt a lot. It’s the name of that game.
With the Gay Association, and the gay rodeos that are out there, we’re just like the next person who cares about their animals, and cares about their pets, and cares about the animals that we’re taking care of in our life as well. We of course exude that into our rodeos as well. We have a belief that those animals have as much a right to their health and welfare as anyone else.
So we have sitting in the IGRA a committee that is specifically for animal welfare rights. Our rodeos run about eight or nine hours, part of the reason for that is we review the animals before they enter the stock contractor’s area. They don’t go into the chutes unless they are healthy and prepared for what we’re about to do to them. The same with us. If one of us gets injured, we stop the entire rodeo until that person gets taken care of. That’s just how it is.
In regular rodeo the best example is, of course, calf roping. When PETA and people opposed to animal cruelty see a calf being roped they see the rope go around that calf’s neck, that calf pops down, then the rider turns and jumps down and does a clover leaf tie-up on the calf.
We don’t do that, we do breakaway calf roping. What that means is as soon as the lasso goes over the calf’s head, we let go of the rope whether we’re on rider or on foot. That calf just continues on down like there is a little collar on him. That’s a really big thing to us. It’s a huge difference. When we look at bull riding….
Gay rodeo has bull riding?
We have junior bulls and senior bulls. The big issue with people when they are looking at rodeo and the bulls is you are strapping that flank and tie around their “bull parts.” Professional bulls are bred for their bucking ability and because of their inability to be tamed and be friendly.
The bulls that are in our chutes, you can walk up to and scratch behind their ears, first of all. Second of all, we do put flank straps on but they are covered in sheepskin so they are comfortable. We never pull it completely tight.
We ask for high school level and under bulls. We don’t ask for professional bulls. We don’t want to get hurt and we don’t want the bulls to have a risk or danger either. We generally don’t have bronco riding anymore, it’s not something we promote on a daily basis. It’s not required of any of rodeos so we’ve removed that factor. Chute-dogging in professional, it’s done on horseback – you jump down off your horse and you grab that steer and you flip them while they are running.
From the gay rodeo stand point, we do high school level chute-dogging where we stand inside the chute with the cow. There is no wrenching.
So you are very aware and take care of the animals?
Correct. That same committee that sits in the IRGA level has a division that comes to each of our rodeos and observes. We would be closed down if we did anything untoward to the animal. The stock contractor would be fined and removed if they presented animals that were injured or otherwise unsafe for us to use. It’s a really big issue, we don’t discount it but at the same time we have to remember that just as they have a right to their protesting for lack of current knowledge; we have the right to go out and do what we’re doing as well. Thank goodness for the Constitution of the United States that they give us that right. You know, it’s aggravating, because I give them their right to protest – they need to give us our right to hold the event.
We don’t injure animals. I’ve been doing this since 2003 and I’ve never seen an animal that was injured because of us.
If you go:
2012 Palm Springs Hot Rodeo, May 5 & 6 at the A.C. Dysart Equestrian Center in Banning. For a full schedule of events, times, tickets and more information about Golden State Gay Rodeo Association, click HERE.
Check out the Palm Springs Rodeo on Facebook HERE.
This article originally appeared HERE.