Hundreds Turn Out to Watch, Take Part in LA Rodeo
Originally published in the Ventura County-Star
For years, kids have schlepped home fuzzy cats and wide-eyed dogs and pleaded with their parents to keep them as pets.
David Smith, 46, of Norco was no different. Except, at the age of 7, he brought home a horse — a palomino named Whiskey, to be exact.
And he’s been riding ever since.
Smith was just one of the riders competing in the 23rd annual L.A. Rodeo, held for the first time this year at Rancho Potrero Equestrian Center in Newbury Park. The event, which was hosted by the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association, attracted 800 to 900 spectators over the weekend.
Smith has participated in the association’s rodeos for 18 years, competing in pool bending, chute dogging and a number of roping events. His goal, he said, is to earn the title “All Around Cowboy” in a rodeo circuit he likens to family.
“There is so much love,” he said.
Along with providing city slickers a taste of equestrian competition, L.A. Rodeo also serves as a fundraising event, with proceeds this year benefiting the Life Group LA, a 3-year-old organization that provides free information and emotional support through medical forums, support groups and seminars to those with HIV.
“We’re doing this thing as a labor of love,” said chapter President Chris Hulse, 33, of Van Nuys. “I was looking for a group that had a purpose and, being gay, I wanted to find an organization that is doing good for the community.”
For Sam and Bronson Page of South Pasadena, their first visit to the L.A. Rodeo in 2005 sparked the competition bug. This weekend, days after the couple were married for the second time Tuesday, they competed together for the first time in several events. The Pages married in 2007 in a formal wedding at a Unitarian Universalist church.
The two competed together in the goat dressing competition. The event is one of several that are specific to gay rodeos. A two-person team races 50 feet toward a goat and upon reaching it, one team member holds it while the other puts a pair of skivvies on the goat before racing back to the starting point.
“It’s good for America to see that there are gay cowboys and cowgirls,” said Sam Page, who took Bronson’s last name. “It’s an iconic sport.”
Bronson Page said the L.A. Rodeo is inclusive. Women can compete in events traditionally reserved for male riders, and straight competitors can participate.
“It makes me feel really alive,” Bronson Page said. “It’s a really great experience. It’s a blast.”