I can’t begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to being a part of the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association’s festivities. When first recieving the Miss IGRA crown in November, I made a point of telling Sterling, “my first choice of a must do rodeo is Calgary.” I have been talking about this trip for months to everyone within ear shot. Even with all my anticipation, it could not have prepared me for what this past weekend held in store. The evening before leaving, Sterling let the cat out of the bag that he was giving me an early anniversary gift of the lastest ipad to help the long trip pass a bit eaisier. My work day on Thursday began at 9am and by 2 in the afternoon I was on my way home to a pre packed load of drag and preparations for a long weekend. By 6:30 we left the 101 degree Fairenheit weather of Dallas. Our short lay over in the 111 degree heat of Phoenix could be felt through the airway bridge as we made our way to the US Airways flight to Canada. Things went like clockwork as we reached Customs, the car rental and the airport exit in stress free bliss. once on the road to Strathmore, where the Rodeo would be held, it suddenly felt as though we were in an episode of Mega Movers. Police lights were flashing, workmen turning traffic lights out of harms way and a huge flat bed truck hauling a monster of a building in front of us. With the darkness of midnight surrounding us it seemed like a Twilight Zone scenario but before long we rounded the building on wheels and headed on into the darkness of the country night. We reached the Strathmore TravelLodge about 1:30am. This is a lovely hotel with a great bed that I, without unpacking a thing, fell into for a night of great sleep without even disrobing until much later in the night.
Reluctantly rising in the late morning, I finally took on the task of unloading the bags and organizing the several drag stations around the room. Makeup, Hair, Body Assembly, Wardrobe, Shoes, Jewerly, Bath, Miss IGRA. Once all was in order we headed for the Rodeo grounds. As we walked out into the mid day sun and gorgeous 70 degress breezy sunshine, HEAVEN, welcome to Canada!!!!
The rodeo grounds, less than a mile away from the hotel, were bustling with the energy of preparatio. ARGRA Trustee and friend Janie Van Staten drove up in her Teal decorated ATV and took us on a tour of the grounds. What a sight to see. We began at the gate, pulling directly into the midway. Countless white tents with penant flags on top were set up for venders as well as tents offered for all local organizations. There were all kinds of wares, rodeo memerobelia and gaming booths for charities, including a crown toss to aid domestic violence awareness and the Imperial Court of Calgary’s dunk tank. (side note; I’d love to see that in the DFW rodeo for a chance to see some monarchs dunked, wouldn’t you?) this was a hoot! We stopped in the concessions area where ARGRA had set up an “in memorium” area with picnic tables and hanging baskets of all kinds of flowers. People could eat here or just spend social time and remember those who have gone on before us. Further into the midway was the main stage with tables, chairs and a bar. This was for non-stop entertainment that ran from 9am to 9pm daily featuring all kinds of different acts from everywhere. (The IGRA 2012 Royalty Team was the closing act on Saturday night) Further past the main stage was the entrance tent to the Tornado Dance Hall where DJ’s spun music from 9pm to about 2am nightly. Next we saw the arena, the double decker grand stand, (with a beer garden behind it), sun drenched bleachers (which throughout the weekend’s festivities would be filled with shirtless hotties) the crow’s nest (where Sterling and I would spend time as timers through the following days) and the outdoor horse stalls (I couldn’t walk through there without spending time sharing some loving’ with many a beautiful gelding and filley). We then drove through several different camping areas and by the week’s end they were packed with camper, tents and trailers. With the grand tour now finished and having had a good meal from the Strathmore Train Station restaurant, we returned to the TravelLodge for a good nights rest.
7am came awfully early as I began putting Victoria together for the first rodeo day of the weekend. I enjoy timing events and was glad to be a timer for one of my favorite events Steer Deco. (along with pole bending, breakaway & team roping) Grand Entry was fun and singing the American National Anthem is always a privilege and an honor. This year, because of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a flag sporting her insignia rounded the arena while they played God Save the Queen. This was followed by a local vocalist singing O Canada. After my timer duties and Grand Entry were complete I set off to explore the midway. I interviewed with a local TV station, a BBC radio show, played crown toss, dunked a court member and visited with several venders and organizations from the surrounding areas. Afterwards I ran back to the hotel for rest, a shower and reapplying makeup for round two on the main stage for our Royalty show. On my way to the stage area I had the great opportunity to spend a few precious moments with Ty Teigen. I didn’t stay long since I did’t want to tax her energy. I had been keeping tabs on her through Janie but I have to say it was a selfish pleasure to get the chance to see her wonderful smile and hear her voice both days of the rodeo. I truly love this woman and am constantly awed by her strength.
Royalty went on around 9pm and performed till just past 10pm. This was very well planned by the ARGRA powers that be. Up to this time, ARGRA has never had a royalty team because the community didn’t seem to understand or feel the need for it. This rodeo committee wanted to feature us by putting IGRA Royalty front and center for the Calgary community to see. We were to represent what IGRA Royalty was all about and that we did. It was a huge hit and our team members heard lots of positive feedback that night and the following day. While on the mic i had the opportunity to speak about the importance of Royalty to the survival and financial viability of IGRA. I think it was all obsorbed by the on-lookers and hopefully one day soon ARGRA may be able to garner interest in royalty. Time will tell. After we finished the Tornado Dance Hall kicked into high gear for another night of fun and festivities. Sterling and I, being the old fogies that we are, retired to the TravelLodge to rest up for another long day.
Sunday came and I got to sleep in late, painting at 8am for a 10am start of rodeo day 2. Same sort of day for me, complete with Round 2 of shower and painting again to help with the awards ceremony. This began with the entire rodeo committee being lead into the main stage area by bagpipes. Inspiring! Each committee member was introduced and let me tell you there were countless members of the committee that made this rodeo happen. This too was inspiring, since having worked with TGRA a couple times putting on a rodeo, the shear number that ARGRA had on staff was daunting to say the least. Then came the ceremony and TGRA came in either 2nd or 3rd in cumulative point break down. This included MsTer IGRA Rocki Heffa and TGRA member Joe Meals both placing in All Around(s). Diva and Rodd placed high in Wild Drag Race with Janie Van Staten. They also won for best Costumed theme. (another side note, this was the only awards ceremony I have ever been to that every single ribbon & buckle were claimed by the recipient. This speaks volumes of how much these folks care about what they are doing here) At the end of the awards all four IGRA Royalty attendees were awarded White Cowboy Hats and with right hands raised, we made the pledge as we were inducted as honorary Canadians. How do ya like that, eh? Yet again the oldsters went home to the hotel. This time to get everything packed up so that our 3am wake up call was doable for 6:30 flight and a long day of travel.
Like before, things went smoothly like a well oiled machine. Even with the lengthy layover in Phoenix, with the help of our iPads time passed easily. We reached our house by 9pm. Back to the heat of Dallas with only very fond memories of the cloudless expansive skies with daylight that didn’t disappear until nearly midnight. The recollection of cool spring air of the Canadian Rockies matching its freshness only by the countless ARGRA members and rodeo patrons that treated us like gold. We are already looking forward to returning next year for a longer stay when we will be able to take some time to explore the mountains and the wonders of The Heart of the New West!