The first gay rodeo was held in Reno, Nevada in 1976 thanks to Phil Ragsdale’s idea to have an openly gay rodeo. Other states followed suit until 1985 when the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) was formed with founding members Colorado, Texas, California and Arizona. Keeping the history of LGBTQ+ rodeo and the history of this western lifestyle, of neighbor-helping-neighbor, of competition, and festivities is the reason the Gay & Lesbian Rodeo Heritage Foundation™ (IGRS) was formed in 2009 as an umbrella to preserve and promote the history of gay rodeo.

The IGRS has a strong history of philanthropy. The Foundation is a recently formed charitable partner for gay rodeo, including IGRA. As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Foundation’s mission is to “support the contributions of the GBLT community to the western life and sport of rodeo.”

Philanthropy is a required component of every IGRA-sanctioned rodeo but many smaller local rodeo associations lack the charitable resources to undertake a national outreach to gay youth and their allies to promote, encourage and to replace and preserve the LGBTQ+ contributions to the sport of rodeo as well as addressing the needs of the gay rodeo community outside their locales.

Through the hard work of some IGRA members, the Foundation’s comprehensive online archive of nearly 45 years includes printed materials – programs, magazine and newspaper articles, association newsletters, even old rodeo rule books. Also included are images from rodeos, videos and “Informative stuff” – all the great historical tidbits that infuse the personalities back to the faces captured in the historic photos of those cowboys and cowgirls, bringing them back to life once again.

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