As the World Gay Rodeo Finals® (WGRF) celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, the person holding the event reins is Laura Scott, director of this year’s very special celebration. This also marks her 25th anniversary as a member of the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) and she says it’s her last active year. As you can see from all her rodeo-related activities, her boots will be hard to fill.
Laura was born in California where her grandfather had a couple of horses that he used to patrol the beaches on horseback following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. It began his love of horses that he passed down to Laura. “I used to love to muck the stalls at their little farm in Pomona,” Laura said. “All these years later, nothing has changed.”
Laura has certainly invested a lot of time and effort into the sport she loves over the last 25 years. She’s served as the rodeo director for the rodeo finals for three years; rodeo director for the Nevada Gay Rodeo Association (NGRA) for five years as well as being its fundraising director; and a three-time assistant for the Arizona Gay Rodeo (AGRA). When asked what the best thing has been about working with IGRA and its WGRF, Laura say it’s “the people, pure and simple. They are my family.”
IGRA isn’t the only group to benefit from Laura’s commitment to the LGBT community, however. Over the years she has worked the Pride gate for years and has also worked with the royal court and the LGBT center. And for a couple of years she was also the entertainment director for National Coming Out Day in Las Vegas.
But Laura’s involvement in rodeo life actually began when she lived in New Mexico, first as a dance team member and then, after she moved to Las Vegas in 1994 Laura started doing some roping and camp events. However she eventually realized that her strengths were more geared to the organizational aspect of the events.
Once living in Vegas, she made a bucket list of sorts – all the things she wanted to achieve in both the Nevada and the International Gay Rodeo Associations. “From royalty and arena crew to rodeo director for NGRA to the director of finals, I’m happy to say they’ve all come to fruition.” She’s been recognized for her efforts, receiving the IGRA Directors Award and the Member of the Year award from NGRA. And in 2014 she was chosen as the Grand Marshal for that year’s BigHorn Rodeo.
When asked about any role models in her life, Laura quickly mentioned IGRA past vice president Andrew Goodman, saying he won’t believe it when he reads this. “He once said to me that we must face everything with grace even if it kills you. I didn’t really get it … until I needed to get it. It was a great lesson and one I strive for daily.”
As the sports diversity movement has changed the way many people now view LGBT athletes and their sports, Laura sees IGRA and its WGRF reaching out more globally. Attributing this in part to IGRA’s participation in the 2014 Gay Games 9 held in Cleveland+Akron, she thinks it made the organization hungry to reach out. It also got it noticed by participants from all over the world, even prompting some girls from Australia to join IGRA.
It’s no wonder that gay sports have such a powerful and positive impact on people’s lives – it provides a sense of family, a community where you are accepted without playing “let’s pretend.” According to Laura, “When I walked into a gay rodeo in Phoenix back in 1991, I didn’t expect the feeling I got; it was as if I had taken my first breath.
“I am so grateful for every moment, good and bad. I have made amazing friendships with people who will last a lifetime. I have been witness to great athletes both human and animal in the sport of rodeo. I have seen the competition aspect go away when a fellow competitor gets hurt because at that moment, they are our family. That’s what I will take away from this. Albeit a little dysfunctional at times, this is family.”
Although her day job is web design and online marketing, Laura says that her work with the rodeo is “the hardest job I’ll ever do and not get paid for. We are all volunteers here. Many people don’t understand it. They see the stress we endure for that year of planning out a rodeo. What they don’t see is my heart beaming because I just saw someone walk into a gay rodeo for the very first time and they had that same look of awe on their face like I did 25 years ago. That makes it all worth it.”
By Miriam Latto