Put on your cowboy hat, pull on your boots and throw on your most faded Wranglers â€” it’s time for the annual Sunshine Stampede!Â This event which is for cowboys, cowgirls and their admirers is the only one of its kind in gay Fort Lauderdale and is presented by Coors Light and Platinum Sponsor Scandals Saloon as well as their other sponsors Maroone Ford of Fort Lauderdale, Camp Mars and Hotspots Magazine.
The first gay rodeo in South Florida took place in April 2006. The event is run by the Florida Gay Rodeo Association (FGRA), which is part of the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA).
“Everyone thought we were crazy and thought we would never pull it off,” said FGRA director Jim Mitchell. “We did and blew attendance records out of the water.”
FGRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and in turn, the Sunshine Stampede is a fundraiser for other local non-profits.
“We raised $20,000 at the first one,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said that the Sunshine Stampede is a unique event because it brings everyone together.
“Lesbians, bears, twinks, leather folks. . .they all come,” he said. “It’s something everyone can go to. . . I bring my 88-year-old parents every year and I’ve never had a problem.”
There is constant entertainment at the Rodeo.
“We do all of the same events a straight rodeo does,” Mitchell said.
Events are broken up into four categories â€” Rough Stock Events (Bull Riding, Bareback Bronc Riding, Junior Bull Riding and Chute Dodging); Roping Events (Calf Roping on Foot, Mounted Breakaway Roping and Team Roping); Speed Events (Barrel Racing, Pole Bending and Flag Racing); and Camp Events (Steer Decorating, Wild Drag Race and Goat Dressing).
“The biggest difference [between a gay and straight rodeo] is that in ours there is no gender discrimination in any events,” Mitchell explained. “For example, Barrel Racing in a straight rodeo is usually a women’s event, but in our rodeo, boys can compete too and it’s funny because the girls usually kick ass.”
People come from all over the country to compete. The Sunshine Stampede attracts a crowd of around 4,000.
For those who are more into loading up on cowboy gear, there’s a great selection of vendors who come in from all over the country to sell their wares.
“They work hard and come back every year,” Mitchell said. “They sell upscale jewelry, necklaces, cowboy boots, shirts, leather and all of our sponsors have booths there as well.”
In addition, the crowd will be entertained by great music and line dancing â€” Heather Craig will perform on Saturday and Sunday. And Mitchell said that the food is a big draw as well.
If the 5 previous years are any indication the arena will be hopping both days, so go buy a ticket and have fun!
April 8 to 10
Bergeron Rodeo Grounds