Interview with Janet Stange

Laveen Village, Arizona on February 15th, 2020 | Interviewer: Saraya Flaig

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Saraya Flaig: This is Saraya Flaig and I’m here with Janet Stange at the Arizona Gay Rodeo Association Rodeo on February 15th, 2020. So, Janet, what year were you born?
Janet Stange: Born in 1965.
SF: And where did you grow up?
JS: Perrysburg, Ohio.
SF: What was your childhood like?
JS: We grew up with ponies and horses on a farm, a 2 3/4-acre farm, so we were always in the horse business. My dad was a Shriner, and he rode parades, and we grew up showing horses and 4-H through the county fair. And then we had a tri-state rodeo association that we followed growing up. When we were old enough, we traveled all over Ohio, and Michigan, and Indiana, and I showed. Then I showed in the quarter horse circuit with a trail horse. Then I got tired of the fancy stuff and said, “Dad, I need something fast.” And went into barrel racing and all that.
SF: Wow. So, did you ever win in those rodeos growing up?
JS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It was a – it was a big deal on that. It was, I mean – you were out there in the hot sun, and you did every event. So, we had a lot of different events back then, being young, and 4-H, and everything else. So, we used to have to do trot and canter carrying an egg on a spoon, on your horse, all the way around. And if you dropped your spoon, you’re out. Stuff like that. There was all different things – but we still had the barrels, poles, and flags. So, I’ve always known those three events that the rodeo has. We never had this calf roping. It’s always been, like, the breakaway, and the tie down, and stuff like that. Yeah. This calf roping on foot is really neat. It allows people that don’t own horses to be a part of the rodeo.
SF: Yeah. And then, do you have any favorite memories from childhood?
JS: Oh, my favorite is just growing up, getting on my bareback pony all the time when I was little. And going barefoot around the farm, and the fields, and just having a good old time. And it was just – I was very blessed. My parents, you know, my dad had his own businesses as a septic tank man, and we were very blessed to have those ponies and horses to grow up with. And we worked hard for ‘em.
SF: Yeah. So, do you have any siblings?
JS: Yes. I am the baby of four. My oldest brother used to compete in the gay rodeo circuit. He retired, and he’s the one who got me hooked into the gay rodeo circuit. I did not even know he was doing it and didn’t even know it was out there.
SF: Wow. So how did you find out he was doing the gay rodeo?
JS: He called me – I’ll never forget it – he called me in 2005. I was in Texas, and he said, “Sister, I’m in your state. You want to come see me?” I’m like, “What are you doing?” He goes, “I’m in the rodeo finals for the gay rodeo.” I’m like, “What?” And I worked for Coca-Cola, and I was a bartender for the gay bar for Abilene, Texas. So, I – and we – had no idea it was going on. I had no idea. And so that’s why I was like, you know, the lack of communication that some people didn’t even know about it. So, yeah. So, I was hooked after I went to his finals. I went up there and saw him and I’m like, “I can do that. I can do that.” So, I was hooked with him.
SF: So was that – what was your first experience at the gay rodeo like?
JS: It was amazing just to get out here and play in the dirt again. And I started with the chute dogging, steer deco with my brother – he showed me deco, how to tie the ribbon. He was the header. Chute dogging, he just showed me and talked me through it. And then wild drag, that was what I started with: three. Started with three events, and now I’m in eight.
SF: How did you do on those first – that first rodeo?
JS: Um, the first rodeo, it was okay. I mean, I did, I think…I can’t even remember. I think I did win. I mean, I placed if anything at that. It’s been a long time. That was 15 years ago.
SF: So what are your eight events now that you do?
JS: I’m now into the calf roping on foot, the chute dogging, steer deco, poles, barrels, flags, wild drag, and goats.
SF: What is your favorite event that you do?
JS: Chute dogging.
SF : Do you think your perspective, kind of, changed on rodeo when you found out women could also do the rough stock events?
JS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I’m all for it because I hated that, you know, like watching the NFR, that the girls only get to do barrels. I’m very proud that they’ve changed a little bit now that they can finally do break away. But I love that we get to compete in our events, too.
SF: Are there quite a few women that compete in the rough stock events?
JS: Yeah. There was. It’s kind of dying now but, I mean, it’s… you know, we’re trying to build it back up. It’s just, it’s tough. Steers and bull riding, it’s a tough event. Chute dogging is really the best event for girls to start and to get into.
SF: Have you done any bull riding? Would you ever want to try it?
JS: No. I wanted to, on my bucket list, but wife said I’m too old.
SF: Have you ever been injured doing the rodeo?
JS: Oh, yeah.
SF: Could you elaborate on that?
SF: Okay. My worst injury was, I was in Little Rock, Arkansas’s rodeo and my horse – we won flags the first day, and we go in the second day to start the flag race. And I go to pick, and I pick it, and the next thing I know, I’m blacked out at the end of the dirt. And she had bucked me off. I had no idea that if you lean forward, she would buck. So, I had an L-3 eye socket crack, I had a – no. I had an eye socket crack, L-3 spinal fracture, and then a hematoma from here to here. And that’s why I wear a helmet now. Because to fix an eye socket fracture – I was lucky I didn’t have splinters, or shaved, or broken – they would take your face off to fix it. So, now I wear a helmet.
SF: Crazy. Did that stop you from competing at all?
JS: No. I heated, I treated it. I did a lot of medicine on my own. I went to the doctors. But it, I mean, I went to the hospital. I passed out. I went to the hospital in an ambulance. I remember that. And stayed there an extra day. I got a CAT scan and all that stuff in Little Rock. But when I got home, I treated it: ice, heat, the hematoma. And then I used my tendon machine to loosen up the blood vessels, stuff like that. So, you learn how to be a medic. Physical therapy for yourself. You know, you have to save some money.
SF: Yeah. So, you said you competed in both, like, normal rodeos, mainstream rodeo, kind of growing up and then...
JS: 4-H and everything. Yeah, I was in everything. The showmanship, the barrels, poles, and flags growing’ up. So, yeah, this is not new.
SF: Yeah. So, what do you – what are some of the differences you’ve noticed between those rodeo events you competed in growing up compared to the gay rodeo?
JS: Nothing really different there. It’s the same events, it’s just the, you know, we were younger then. And, you know, now we’re just all a big family here, at gay rodeo stuff.
SF: Yeah. Do you think there’s anything that makes gay rodeo special?
JS: I think it’s the people. The people and the camaraderie; that we all care about each other. It’s not, you know, I know they talked about back in the day it used to be cutthroat, but I wasn’t around for then. And it’s just, you know, we love it and that’s why we’re here is the passion, you know, because it’s not – there’s not the money anymore. I’ve seen the stories in the old films, and I’m sure you have from the archives and stuff that, you know, we used to have thousands and thousands of people in the stands, but I never got to experience that. The most I think I’ve experienced it was, Forth Worth Finals had like about 1,000 to 1,500 people in there at the Will Rogers Stadium. And that was a lot of people.
SF: Have you competed in a finals rodeo then?
JS: Oh yeah. I’ve been in almost every event. Except the first year because I really wasn’t – do I go for one event or not?
SF: What events have you competed in at finals?
JS: All of ‘em now. Except for barrels or rough stock – except for steer riding, and team roping, and breakaway, and bulls. Those four.
SF: Wow. Have you won any buckles, then, at finals rodeo?
JS: I finally won my first buckle with my brother in 2014 in steer deco before he retired. We finally did it, and then he said, “I’m done.” Then I finally won my first chute dogging final buckle last year, which now was my passion because I just – you know, I’m over 50 and that was my passion of getting there. I’ve worked hard, I’ve tried to encourage other women to get in there with me and play. And, yeah, they beat me. I don’t care. I love the sport. I love that event. But I don’t care if they beat me. That was my golden ticket this year because I really strived for it, and I got it by less than a tenth of a second – it was that close.
SF: Wow. Do you have a favorite buckle, then?
JS: That one now. That one for now. I have a lot of buckles.
SF: That’s exciting. Do you have any favorite memories of participating in a finals rodeo?
JS: I would say, the one that my brother and I won. That one because it was so special, and my sister was there and her husband. It just seemed more – it was a big crowd, and he cried. We got the banner for the steer deco, and it was just really special because it was our first one together. Because he already had a chute dogging buckle from years ago before I even knew he was doing it. And that’s all he had – or, I think, or something else. If he even had a goat one. But when I started competing, and then it was brother and sister, and chute dogging female and male, I guess my score started getting closer to him. He was a little upset with that.
SF: Would your scores have beat his scores ever?
JS: A couple times I have.
SF: That’s pretty exciting.
JS: He’s like, “Hummm… sister’s getting stronger.” Yeah, he’s six years older than me.
SF: Wow. So, what was that like doing gay rodeo with your brother?
JS: It was amazing; it was great. He taught me a lot, showed me the ropes, and I came right into the rodeo family. It was great.
SF: Do you have any other memories that you’d like to share with your brother doing gay rodeo specifically?
JS: Well, the other memory is, you know, that’s how I met my wife. At the gay rodeo.
SF: Could you expand on that?
JS: In Oklahoma City, she came with a very good friend of mine that is somewhat of my teammate. And he brought her. She never heard of the gay rodeo out of Kansas City, and she wasn’t doing anything memorial weekend. I was with my brother; we shared a room and all that because we’re teammates and stuff. And I was standing there talking to the arena director, just hanging out, on Friday, at registration in my shorts and T-shirt – just hanging out talking. And she walked in with him. And he first saw me and Todd, and he goes, “Oh, my god. You gotta meet my new friend,” and all that stuff. And he was the like showing her off to everybody. I’m like, “Nice to meet you.” And he said, “Oh, she’s going to do this. Will you help her in the girl’s side?” And I’m like, “Sure, no problem. I’ll help her,” and stuff like that. So, I kind of just went about my way, and she went about her way. Then, all day on Saturday, you know, when we start warming up – and all of a sudden, she was just sitting up there watching. Like, every time I kept going down to stretch and work out, get ready for my event, I look up and she’s staring at me. She kept staring at me. And then finally I look up at her, and then I snuck up – I thought she was cute – so then, I snuck up behind her and I said, “How you doing?” Scared the shit out of her. And she went, “Okay.” And I’m like, “Okay. You have any questions? What’s going on?” And she goes, “Nothing, just hanging out.” “Okay.”
JS: So, then, I think it was Saturday – Saturday we were all going about our ways, picking up our bags and stuff, and going to eat. We’re all discussing where we’re going to eat. She walked by me, and she goes, “Can I give you a kiss?” I’m like, “Okay, right in front of my brother?” And my brother goes, “Sister! Stay away from her.” And Todd pulled her away and goes, “Stay away from each other!” So, it was like big brothers were pulling each other away. So then, I’m like, “You don’t pay my bills. I’m a big girl, if I want to go see somebody, I will.” So, we went out Saturday night. Had a good time, sat out by the venue pool and just talked and drank, stuff like that. And my wingman – or, her wingman – was Pepe. Pepe was our wingman. He was with us. He’s the history of our relationship. Then Saturday night came and I was pissed at my brother, so I moved out of the hotel room we were sharing and got my own hotel room. And she came and stayed with me. And this is where it comes into the two full on Sunday night, after finals and awards and stuff. She came back and we talked, and we sat up all night.
JS: We’d been drinking and stuff; she talked about her family history. And this was Memorial Weekend – get the dates, okay. So, she’s sitting’ there telling me. And I went to bed, and she said she didn’t feel good. And I said, “You okay?” And she goes, “Yeah, I’m okay.” And then all of a sudden, she wakes me up and she’s – well, our phone’s ringing because Todd’s like, “Let’s go, let’s go.” And she said she didn’t feel good again. She was throwing up and stuff and I had slept through it. I go, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” She goes, “It’s okay.” But she had told me that her dad died on Memorial Weekend of a heart attack, so it’s in her family. She didn’t want to tell him, and so he thought she was hungover. And she had to ride back with him, all the way to Kansas City, so she forewarned everybody that she didn’t feel good, and she might have to stop throw up. He’s like, “Hey, you drank too much. Blah, blah, blah.” And so, she got back home to Kansas City, and I went to Texas. I said I would take her home because I was off, and she said, “No, no,” because, you know, we just met. And so, I went home to Texas, and I kept calling her.
JS: And then she was in the seventies – she didn’t feel good, let’s see, that was Memorial Day, that Monday. She got home Tuesday. She went to work Wednesday. She didn’t feel good again, so she called her doctors. They ran her a little stress test, and then they ran the dye tests – I guess this is only way they can tell. And she was in the seventy-second hour of finding out she had a heart attack. And they said, “Immediately turn around and come back into the hospital,” and they were putting two stints in. And I was in Texas. I had facetimed her and met all her friends from up there, and one was a good friend of ours that’s a nurse doctor in the hospital she was at. So, yeah, I gave her a heart attack. [laughs] Just kidding. But anyway, that’s our history of it, and we, you know, we connected. It was 756 miles from my door in Texas to her door. I would drive it. I would fly it. I knew all the ins and outs of American, to go San Angelo to Dallas to Kansas City on Fridays, or she would drive down. But I did most of it ‘cause I had the freedom.
SF: How long did you drive back and forth?
JS: A year and a half, a year and a half.
SF: Wow. So, where do you both live now?
JS: We got through, through corporate America. We kept our eyes out. She was lucky – her job, she asked for a tranSFer to Wichita. And I took a demo. I had my own station for FedEx Ground as a senior manager in San Angelo and gave up a cushy job and went back to the outbound as an outbounds manager – which it helped me develop for the company anyways, because my little station didn’t have that much volume and stuff. So, we got to tranSFer. And I kept watching for positions open, and one just happened to open. I actually had to – the senior manager wouldn’t accept me on the first one, so I had to, you know, so I kinda had to, almost… I drove up – Denise had some kind of function in Wichita – and I met her face-to-face. And she ended up being a lesbian. And I’m like, “This is why I’m moving.” Cause you kind of got to watch who you’re telling you’re moving and you’re leaving this corporate position. So, until you know them…. So, I physically went up there, met her face-to-face. And she goes, “Oh, okay, we’ll find a spot for you.” So that’s how we – and we just lucked out with our jobs because I was like, I didn’t wanna leave it. I was 10 plus years in. And she didn’t wanna leave hers, so that’s how we worked it out. I picked up everything from and she still had a condo. She has two daughters and a grandbaby now. They’re older, you know, 25, 26, below 30. We have a 6-year-old granddaughter, and they have cattle in Missouri. We’re three and a half hours from them.
SF: And then you are married to her?
JS: Yes, we got married in ‘11, 10/12. And we went to Sioux City, Iowa. Our good friend, Slick, she lives out there on her cattle ranch. And she used to rodeo. She retired from rodeo and so we all were friends then. And then my brothers and sisters – my brothers and sister came, and her daughters came and were in the wedding, and all it was all rodeo. That was our family. Yes. Came to Iowa. And we had a little reception. We had a great little venue that Slick hooked us up on. And it was just an amazing, intimate little wedding. It snowed; it was cold. But we had a really good wedding. Yeah, we did it at church. I think it was a MCC church. Yeah, we did it there. We had a great little lesbian couple venue. The food was delicious; the cake was amazing. And I just couldn’t believe how many people showed up – just 50-some altogether.
SF: That sounds like a great wedding.
JS: Yeah. It was not this group. It wasn’t that many of this group. I want to, I’m trying to think… yeah, because I wasn’t really knowing all this group yet, so it was a different side of the rodeo family than that.
SF: So was it like your rodeo family from doing rodeo before?
JS: Yeah, yeah. It was the rodeo family of earlier days. Yeah, and they’re all not here anymore. That’s the gist of it. So now it’s a new rodeo family.
SF: So does the rest of your – do any of your other siblings do rodeo as well? Or just you and your brother?
JS: Yep, just the brother until he retired. And now, he just plays and travels. My second brother-sibling, we share the same birthday. He owns the family business. He took it over from dad. You know, him and his wife and daughter, they ride horses. She’s a pleasure, cutting horses and all that. They did all that stuff. And my sister used to be in all this stuff with me because we were closest – two years apart. So, we showed all the time, but she quit and got married, and moved to Hawaii, and all that stuff. But she’s back in Ohio now. She’s been to a lot of our rodeos. She’s come and seen a lot in support of me.
SF: And so, what was it like coming out to your family or friends?
JS: It was tough, I’ll tell you that. You know why? Because the brother came out first. So, I kind of knew, and he kind of knew. And he did it first. He was in college, and I was in high school. I was in high school, and I knew I was gay – actually, junior high. So, he come home one Christmas for – to tell everybody. And I’ll never forget, in the farmhouse kitchen him and I are talking, and I said, “Yeah, brother, you can come out, but I’m gay too.” He goes, “Don’t tell mom and dad.” So, I didn’t. And he got disowned for 10 years. I never knew it. He told me that mom and dad – mom threw the Bible at him. I had no idea. I had no idea.
SF: So did you later tell your parents?
JS: Yeah.
SF: Were they accepting or not?
JS: I didn’t tell them fully. Because I’ve always had roommates playing ball – because I was in college and played ball, had full rides at the University of Toledo. I play volleyball, softball. So, I always had roommates that were “my friends,” brought ‘em home to the farm, stuff like that. I think they finally put two and two together when I finally moved in with somebody that had kids, in Texas. I actually left the university after I finished my college days; I ended up in California. So, I’ve been around. I’ve had a very, I’d say, colorful travel of the years. I went from graduated from college, met somebody, went down to Dayton. And then I went to California, followed them because they were military with kids. And I worked for Airborne Express out there. I’ve experienced being left on the street. Because she left me for a man. And bad days of illegal drugs, been through all that. So, in California, had no family, no nothing. And lost it all. And got myself up, and vowed I’d never do that again. So, yeah, I had some rough times. And I went, on my own, and saw the L.A. rodeos out in California way before – I had no idea that my brother was even doing ‘em – way before then. I saw one. I just, I was out, lonely, and saw it at a bar that was posted. So, I went to it. I was like, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” But I was in a rut, so I just faded away and never thought about it again. Until I moved back to – I took the Greyhound bus to Texas from California. I left all this stuff in storage for 3 years here, finally got it out 3 years later.
SF: Wow.
JS: Yeah, I’ve had a traveling time.
SF: And, so, did you grow up pretty religious at all?
JS: We were Lutherans. We went every Sunday. Dad would wake us up. We’d gripe and moan when we got older, but he’d wake us up and we’d go every Sunday. In this great small town of Perrysburg, we had a great church. I really liked it, and stuff like that.
SF: Are you still religious now?
JS : No, we don’t. We – we’ve been to MCCs, been to a lot of MCCs. I was religious back in Abilene a lot, with the one I was dating then with kids and stuff. We tried that. We just have, you know, we have our own time with them.
SF: So, what do you think about camp events in the gay rodeo?
JS: I love ‘em. That’s my fave. That’s my fave and that’s – you know why? If you saw me in goats today, I picked up a rookie. I do that a lot. I pick up a rookie because it’s an easy event to show somebody to get thrilled about it. You know, because he was in rodeo school and his first experience, he wanted to try steer riding and all that ‘cause Utah – he’s coming from Utah. And he got a little hurt. And then he’s like, “Well, I want to learn goat dressing.” So, I showed him how to goat dress. And I said, “Well, you know, I don’t have a partner. Would you like to partner with me?” He goes, “Oh my god, yes.” And I’m like, “Okay.” You know, I don’t care. I want to – I want more people to have a good experience, you know, to come and stay and promote us. So, I don’t always have to win. I just want to have fun now. I’m at that age of 55. I mean, I’ve gotten my buckle I wanted. So, I’m enjoying now that I’ve been – now that I’ve hooked up with some great persons like David and Robin Kegel and Rhonda that let me, allow me to ride some wonderful horses, that’s where my passion is now. ‘Cause I love riding them, going back and riding again. And I love chute dogging.
SF: Do you own any horses yourself?
JS: No, I used to. In Texas I had four horses and walked away from all of it for Denise. Left it all.
SF: Have you and your wife ever partnered up for any events before?
JS: No. Nope, she’s the chute coordinator. But no, she competed with Todd at that rodeo, and she got kicked so bad in the arm – from him. And that’s where she thought, you know, with the heart attack, that we thought that was it – her bruising on her arm.
SF: How has being involved in gay rodeo affected other aspects of your life?
JS: It’s been financial. And, you know, it’s my expensive hobby, as I call it. It’s, you know, some days are tough for work. But I budget and plan. I really budget and plan so that I can do my – this is my vacation times. This is my enjoyable vacation because I can’t take it with me. I don’t have any kids. So, I plan on enjoying life. And then, once we get done, Denise and I get done with this one, enjoy life again.
SF: Do you see yourself participating in the rodeo for the foreseeable future, as long as you can?
JS: As long as I can. As long as my health holds up, I plan on staying.
SF: And have you held any, like, administrative-type positions within the rodeos or your association?
JS: No, I’m pretty much just a contestant liaison. I’ve been the contestant liaison for three years now.
SF: So what do you do in that role?
JS: We’re here to help contestants, especially new contestants. That’s why I’m big about them – helping ‘em through the rules, their class, or their events they’re in. To let them know the breakdowns of it, what they’re going to see, what’s gonna happen, who’s gonna ask this, blah, blah, blah. And the rules and regulations so they don’t get DQ’ed. Yeah, it’s pretty much – and I’m not, I’m like a go-to person, but I’m not official. So, I always make sure that they understand who’s the Skittles: the red, the yellow, the blues, and greens, and who go to for what. And if you have any questions, always come to us.
SF: What is the association you’re a part of?
JS: I’m in Red River Rodeo Association. I was in North Star with my brother forever. And then I’ve only been in Red River now after that. I think I was 10 years with North Star. It was just – my brother and I were the only competitors from North Star then. And I was out of Minnesota.
SF: Oh, wow. And have you noticed any differences between the North Star Association and the Red River Association?
JS: Red River is a lot easier. Well, both of them are really easy. It’s not – because we did – Carl lived in Minnesota, but I didn’t. So, I didn’t have to do anything. Red River is really easy, and we don’t require a lot of stuff commitment-wise. And then, when we have something, you know, like we always – we do a lot of rodeo schools because our President has the facility for us to do that. So, we do a lot of rodeo schools to make money.
SF: And have you seen, kind of, IGRA or even your own associations change over the time that you’ve been involved?
JS: Yes. Our association is huge, but they don’t come out and support. They do a lot of their own barrel racing and their own roping because they’re all from Texas. They’re big barrels and roping people. They don’t come out, to travel. They’ll come to Texas, they’ll come to Oklahoma, they’ll come to Kansas City, but that’s it.
SF: Have you seen numbers, kind of, grow within your own association over the years, then?
JS: Well, we’re a branch off of the – let’s see, Texas had one, two, three chapters. And we broke off from it and made our own, well our President did.
SF: What is your favorite aspect of the gay rodeo and being part of it?
JS: The family. Getting to hang out with everybody and socializing. But my biggest thing is being with everyone. We all care about each other. We’ve been doing this for so long, for 15 years. I have a 15-year relationship with this, with all these people. I mean, we’re just talking about – my teammates Bubba and Luke – we were just talking about how, just yesterday – because we were a six pack as a group for a while. It was four boys and Denice and I. We would get Airbnb’s, we’d go to restaurants together, we’d go do stuff, we went on adventures, we made vacations as families and stuff. And we’re all placed all over the United States. But we always flew together, worked together, and played together. And we got Airbnb’s, just had a blast. So, we were just reminiscing about all the stuff we’d done. That was in the last five years.
SF: Wow, that’s cool.
JS: Yeah, it really is.
SF: Have you ever met a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl that was openly gay outside of gay rodeo?
JS: I mean, like, are you talking about NFR people?
SF: Yeah, in any other venue.
JS: Not ours, right?
SF: Yeah.
JS: Probably not. I don’t remember. I might have, but I don’t remember. I know of some people that talked about some people.
SF: What does being a cowgirl mean to you?
JS: Very proud to be able to tell people that I actually flip a steer, actually rope a calf, and I get to ride a horse. I tell them, you know, I don’t wear boots all time. But I do it. I love it. I just think it’s really neat to have that on my title.
SF: So, you would say you’re a cowgirl, then, for sure?
JS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I love my jeans. I love my jeans, I love my boots, I love my hats, but Denise hates me in hats – at least in a cowboy hat. And our wedding was in a cowboy hat; I was in a cowboy hat and a tux. Oh, yes, I wore my black cowboy hat.
SF: Do you think the larger LGBTQ+ community supports the rodeo?
JS: Depends on what city.
SF: Which cities would you say are more accepting of…?
JS: Of coming to the rodeos and stuff like that? Because there’s, I mean, there is some places in Dallas that does, but I don’t know... I mean, our rodeo venue has changed so much since then. Obviously, this rodeo is a different kind of LGBTQ that comes here, but their support of the buses and stuff just brings them in. Um, California, the Bay Area, has a good following. Nevada, Las Vegas does. Minnesota has one, but it’s, you know, it’s not at the arena, it’s more in town. Oklahoma used to, and hopefully now that we have it back, they’ll be there. Kansas City had one, but, you know, they – they’re a dying breed on their bars up there, too. I mean, because we’re so accepted everywhere now, it’s not just…
SF: Do you think that kind of changes the way gay rodeo is viewed or what the experience is like of people who are part of it?
JS: No, not really. It’s just, I think it’s just the financials. People don’t think about spending this kind of money doing this. They don’t think about that. They, you know, it’s the millennial time. It’s a quick fix.
SF: When you say there’s like a different kind of LGBTQ+ that comes here to the Arizona rodeo, can you expand on what you mean by that?
JS: The Spanish side. You see it. This is totally, totally because they own the Corona Ranch and Charlie’s bar, that brings them here. I mean, it’s really, really amazing. Those people out there, coming and, you know, they were a hit in our stands. And then you go out there and they’re still out there. And it’s like, “Oh, my gosh.” And that’s both nights now. Like last night, even at registration, it was packed. So, I mean, it was a lot of fun last night, too.
SF: Is there anything else you would like to add to your experience about IGRA or any other favorite memories or stories you want to share?
JS: Favorite memory, sure. Of the rodeo? I mean, the six pack, our family that we’ve established, is just amazing. We do have our commitments because we’re all older, and we all have professional jobs too. So, it was just – we still had our own page. We talk to each other, and we look forward to this spending time with just us and hanging out and talking, and stuff like that. We’re all – only Denise and I are together. One is in Arizona and he’s actually at his pro rodeo, so he couldn’t be here. He can’t be here because it’s on his weekend. So, he’s actually gay and nobody knows he is, kind of, sort of. He’s in charge of the Tucson Professional Rodeo. And then my buddy Bubba, he’s the San Quinton gunner in California. And Luke is in Colorado, and then Jason’s in California, in San Francisco. So those are my favorite memories of that, and then also competing with my brother, getting that. Cause that brother-sister, not too many have that brother-sister company. And then actually, we won Colorado. I won the female chute dogging, and he won the male chute dogging. We’d never done that before. And we got to compete in Gay Games together too.
SF: What was your Gay Games experience like?
JS: Amazing. We got there early, Denise and I, we went down to the park where, you know, they told us we weren’t – we thought we were going the right way to sign up. But we got to see everything: all the other different sports and stuff, all of the signing up and all that. We got to get some great gear. And everybody else for the rodeo signed up, like locally, back in Akron. We’re like, “Oh, my god, you’ve got this, this, this and this.” And then to go to the Cleveland Field – and I’d been there and, you know, when I lived in Toledo, so I’d been to Cleveland – and to go to that baseball field and fill it with all of us and our color codes. And then walk under the street and go into the Cleveland Cavaliers Stadium. And just like the Olympics, being called in was unbelievable – never forget it. I will never forget that. But I will never forget to talk about that because, you know, it’s kind of gone. That was in 2014, too.
SF: Do you hope that one day IGRA can be a part of Gay Games again?
JS: Oh, yeah. But it’s, you know, it’s overseas. I think they were bidding for one out here somewhere just recently. We were all talking about that. Here comes my wife. She texted me and I said, “I’m still here.”
SF: Alight. Well, I think that’s all the questions I have for you. Thank you for your time.