Well, August is moving on and September is on the horizon. With that comes the Missouri Gay Rodeo! This month I interviewed Cayree Ragsdale, the treasurer for the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association. Cayree has been an active rodeo fan since her youth. The MGRA is celebrating its 32 years as an active organization. Come on out Aug. 31-Sept. 2 and enjoy!
Are you from the Springfield area?I live in Springfield, Mo. My hometown is Forsyth, Mo., which is about an hour south of Springfield. I have lived in Springfield since I came here to attend Missouri State University, which was then called Southwest Missouri State. I graduated and taught school a few years, during which I lived in the Nixa, Mo., area, but eventually came back to Springfield.
Did you have a background with rodeo prior to becoming involved in the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association (MGRA)?I grew up around rodeos, primarily as a spectator. However, my dad was a law enforcement officer who often worked the parking area or patrolling the grounds during rodeos in the local areas around my hometown. I sometimes would follow him around, learning some of the things that go on behind the scenes.
My grandfather was a blacksmith, known as a farrier these days. His primary work was putting new shoes on horses, and people from all over the area brought their horses to his shop to get shoes. When I was pretty young, I spent a lot of time around Grandpa’s shop and watching him work. When he had a horse that he knew was gentle, he sometimes would set me up on the horse and lead it around so I could ride a bit. That started my love of horses.
I also had an uncle who was 6 feet, 7 inches tall and was a rodeo bulldogger and calf roper. My family went to rodeos to watch him compete.
How did you become involved with the MGRA?
I was aware of MGRA when it began to be formed back in 1986. Their meetings were in a club in Joplin where my friends and I would go on weekends. I had friends who were joining the association, but since I did not live in Joplin, at the time I didn’t think I would be able to be a part of the organization.
Some years later, there was a Springfield chapter started and I got involved at that time. A close friend told me they were having a meeting to organize and asked if I would go with her. I went and ended up being elected chapter secretary. As a chapter officer, I attended the state board of directors meetings, and in my second year of involvement with the state board, I was elected state board secretary.
Do many women participate in the gay rodeo?
Yes, there are a lot of women competitors and even more women who work behind the scenes to promote and produce rodeos on the International Gay Rodeo Circuit.
There are not a lot of women who ride rough stock, but there are a few women who even compete in bull riding, chute dogging, bronc riding and steer riding. That is besides those who rope and run barrels, poles and flags with their horses. Women compete against each other in every rodeo event, the same as the men.
What is your favorite event at the rodeo?
Gee, that’s a tough question to answer. Sometimes I don’t even see much of the rodeo performance because I’m a behind-the-scenes person. [I am] currently MGRA treasurer; most of my time is spent making sure money is where it needs to be and is picked up and deposited when need be.
I’d have to say my favorite events to watch are probably the speed events. These are timed events where the rider steers the horse around barrels or poles or picking up and depositing a flag while being timed and staying in the saddle while the horse performs amazing movements. The power and ability of the horses just amazes me.
What can people expect from this year’s rodeo?
MGRA has had great feedback about our recent rodeos, and this year will be more of the same fun and excitement. During Friday night contestant registration, there will be a Country Cookout and Hoedown going on at the rodeo grounds. Saturday and Sunday, besides the rodeo events going on, folks can visit numerous booths in our vendor area and get their favorite adult beverage from the bar. Karaoke will be happening in the vendor/bar area. The arena will have a snack bar open for food and non-alcoholic drinks.
Spectators can expect surprises to be tossed into the crowd on occasion, and everyone is always excited to watch the “camp” events which are added to gay rodeo. Goat Dressing seems to be a favorite because it can be so funny.
Is there still a need for volunteers for this year’s rodeo?
Volunteers are the backbone of producing a successful rodeo, and we can always put someone to work if they want to be part of a great weekend. Anyone can go to www.mgra.us and click on the Volunteer tab for info about being a volunteer at the Show-Me State Rodeo.
Are you involved in other regional rodeos? Please explain.
It has been my privilege to help out at other IGRA-sanctioned regional rodeos and the World Gay Rodeo Finals. I am a regular volunteer at our neighbor’s (Diamond State Rodeo Association) Rodeo in the Rock that is held every other year in Little Rock. Most recently, I was asked to be the treasurer for last year’s Keystone State Gay Rodeo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was Keystone State’s first rodeo, and several experienced gay rodeo personnel from other IGRA member associations helped the new organization get their feet wet.
Last fall, I was a Royalty judge and volunteer at the World Gay Rodeo Finals in Albuquerque. That was a new experience for me and one I will be doing again this year at Finals in Mesquite, Texas.
Does the MGRA ever have issues with protesters, whether anti-LGBTQIA or animal rights?
I have never experienced protesters at a rodeo, but there were instances in past years where protesters made themselves known at a Show-Me State Rodeo. I believe that was when the rodeo was held at the Wyandotte County Fairgrounds, before the fairgrounds was sold and put to another use.
As far as animal rights, there can be no other group of people who care more about animals than the members of gay rodeo. IGRA, who sanctions the regional rodeos like MGRA’s Show-Me State Rodeo, has the most strict rules pertaining to animal use and handling that you will find in any rodeo association.
For example, calf roping in gay rodeo is called “breakaway roping.” The contestant’s rope is attached to the saddle by a string that breaks away when the calf is roped, and the calf runs free. The calf is not brought down and legs tied like in professional rodeo.
What interests do you have outside of rodeo?
I am an active member of my neighborhood association and volunteer at events we support or produce. I recently helped manage the bounce house for kids at Springfield’s National Night Out.
I played volleyball in high school and college and still enjoy different types of sporting events. I was a season ticketholder for years for the MSU Lady Bear games.
I belong to a group of lesbian women who get together once a week for a meal and fellowship. It’s an attempt to stay connected with others in our community and share information.
I’m a dog person. I always have a dog or two, and they are family members, not just pets.