Saddle bronc

Contestants compete in saddle bronc riding during the Texas Tradition Rodeo & Country Fair at the North Texas Fairgrounds on Saturday. The Texas Gay Rodeo Association’s events offer all the high points of the rodeo circuit — bull riding, barrel racing and calf roping — as well as drag performances and competitions such as steer decorating, goat dressing and the wild drag race.

Folks seeking a rodeo show with a few twists can stop by the Texas Tradition Rodeo & Country Fair through Sunday to experience a gay rodeo.

The rodeo and fair has brought family fun and entertainment to Denton this weekend at the North Texas Fairgrounds. It’s one of several gay rodeos organized by the Texas Gay Rodeo Association.

What makes a gay rodeo different? There are classic rodeo events like bull riding and barrel racing, but also along with a few unique events — like goat dressing and the wild drag race. Women and men can compete in every category.

The country fair, meanwhile, has a carnival full of rides and games.

Priscilla Toya Bouvier, a drag queen from New Mexico, typically competes but this weekend she’s representing the rodeo as the reigning Miss International Gay Rodeo Association and making sure everyone is having a good time.

“Meeting everyone and educating them about the rodeo [is my favorite part],” Bouvier said. “My job is to raise money for the association and make sure the crowd is engaged and let people know what’s going on.”

The Texas Gay Rodeo Association raises money for LGBTQ-centered charities, as well as other local nonprofits, and has done so since the 1980s at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

It’s a gay rodeo, but everyone is welcome. Some attendees even brought their dogs on Saturday, although one service dog kept escaping from its owner to roam around underneath the bleachers and then photo-bomb a group taking a picture.

Judges waved rainbow flags to signal the start of particular contests, and pride flags moved with the wind from the top of the arena.

Whitney McLeland and Ryan Jurik came from Arkansas to see Jurik’s uncle barrel race.

“I have one day off for Memorial Day so I wanted to spend my time with horses,” McLeland said.

While the crowd early Saturday afternoon was smaller than at the North Texas Fair and Rodeo, the fairgrounds’ flagship August event, rodeogoers showed up to enjoy the shows — some regardless of the rainbow flag decorations.

“[I’m here to] have fun and the rodeo is a good place to get a funnel cake,” said Jan Dji-Lynn Campbell, who came from Sadler, east of Gainesville.

Campbell and her friend Lisa Rux of Denton had friends who were competing in barrel racing and goat dressing, the events they were most excited for.

In goat dressing, a two-person team tries to wrestle a pair of brief-style underwear onto a goat. Once the goat is dressed, the pair runs back to the finish line.

Another gay-centric contest is the wild drag race, involving a team of three, with one person in drag, and a haltered steer. One teammate leads the steer to the finish line, another helps, and the member in drag has to mount the steer.

Besides the events, Campbell said she’s noticed gay rodeo events are different in that they’re centered around the safety of the participants.

Rodeo events operating under the International Gay Rodeo Association follow modified rules of professional and non-gay rodeo to keep a safe environment for the animals and people, according to the group’s website.

The Texas Tradition Rodeo & Country Fair’s last ride in Denton this weekend is Sunday.

ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached via Twitter at @zairalperez.

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