Sunshine Stampede Rodeo Rides into Davie

Keith Huber

For years Keith Huber had attended gay rodeos all over the country and had always enjoyed watching them. Seven years ago though Huber decided to try his hand at steer riding in the Florida Gay Rodeo Association’s first gay rodeo.

Even though he fractured two ribs, he came back the next year to participate - and fractured two ribs again.


Still Wilton Manors resident Huber, 48, refused to give up and decided to attend the International Gay Rodeo Association’s rodeo university to learn how to ride a steer.

Since then he's given up steer riding, but has gone on to excel at the other events. He's now won two buckles, one for chute dogging and one in goat dressing, and he's been invited to the World Gay Rodeo Finals.

It's those buckles that keep him coming back.

"I'm hoping to come back with a vengeance this year and get lots of buckles. I want a buckle in wild drag and calf roping," he said. "I missed it by .08 seconds last year."

Someone else hoping to win a buckle this year is Kirk Ruben of Wilton Manors. Last year his hopes of winning that buckle were dashed. So he's back again.

In order to win a buckle contestants must score the most points over two days of competition in one of the events. This will be Ruben’s fifth Sunshine Stampede, and he has yet to bring home a coveted buckle.

As a professional ballet dancer Ruben never imagined he would one day return to his rural roots as a cowboy, albeit a flamboyant one. Around the rodeo Ruben is known as the “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

“I ran out of the whole rural situation as fast as I could and now here I am down in the cow dirt right back in it again,” he said. “I’ve traded in my tights for spurs and blue jeans.”

The rodeo has traditional rodeo events like bull riding, steer riding, calf roping, barrel racing, and pole bending. And then some not-so-traditional events, called camp events, like goat dressing, and the wild drag race (see side bar).

The camp events are just for fun and good events for first time competitors.

Another difference between gay rodeos and regular rodeos is that all of the proceeds are donated to charity. More than $2 million has been raised from gay rodeos around the country since the 1980s.

The level of difficulty is also less than other rodeos to give more people an opportunity to participate.

The gay rodeo caused a stir the first year in Davie. The first year after the Davie town council approved the event residents sent letters of protest. The council in turn made the FGRA add extra police protection in case protestors showed up - five showed up.

Huber remembers one of them holding up a sign that read "No Brokeback Mountain here in Davie." ’Brokeback Mountain’ was a 2005 movie about two gay cowboys in a secret relationship. And while it was used by a protestor in a derogatory way, the movie inspired Huber.

"I think the Brokeback movie did drive people to the rodeo," he said "I know it inspired me a little bit."

Everything ran smoothly the first year and Davie’s mayor even showed up and praised the event. Since then those type of protestors have been few and far between.

But just like traditional rodeos, gay rodeos have garnered another type of protestor - animal rights groups like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Huber said the rodeo is animal friendly – or as animal friendly as a rodeo can be.  They go above and beyond regular rodeos to ensure the safety of the animals. They’ve modified events, prohibit shock sticks, and if a contestant abuses an animal, even their own animal, they will be disqualified.

The Seventh Annual Sunshine Stampede Rodeo takes place April 21-22 at the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds, 4271 Davie Road in Davie. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the gate.

Visit for a complete listing of the weekend’s events or more information.


The 2012 Sunshine Stampede -- Weekend Events Schedule

Thursday, April 19

FGRA Royalty Show

The Manor Complex

9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Join Royalty, both past and present from IGRA and across the circuit, as well as local performers for fun and fundraising.

Friday April 20

Rodeo School

Bergeron Rodeo Grounds

8:30 a.m. to Noon

Lunch provided for attendees

Welcome Pool Party and Mixer

Hilton Pool Deck

1870 Griffin Road, Dania Beach

2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

After you check in, relax by the pool, enjoy the music and meet the cowboys and cowgirls coming in from all over North America.

Saturday April 21

Rodeo, Day One

Bergeron Rodeo Grounds

9 a.m. - Rodeo Starts – Morning Events

12:30 p.m. - Grand Entry

1 p.m. – Rodeo – Afternoon Events

1 p.m. - Midway Tent Opens for Dancing and Entertainment

Sunday April 22

Rodeo, Day Two

Bergeron Rodeo Grounds

9 a.m. - Rodeo Starts – Morning Events

12:30 p.m. - Grand Entry

1 p.m. – Rodeo – Afternoon Events

1 p.m. -- Midway Tent Opens for Dancing and Entertainment

Awards Ceremony and Dinner

7 p.m. - Dinner Buffet begins - Dinner requires a ticket

8 p.m. - Hilton Ballroom - Awards Ceremony

Dinner tickets will be available at Friday night's Registration and the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds.

Closing Party

The Manor Complex

Live Country DJ, Dancing and lots of Cowboys and Cowgirls!

8 p.m. till Close

*Bergeron Rodeo Grounds – 4271 Davie Road

*Hilton Hotel – 1870 Griffin Road, Dania Beach, Florida 33004

*The Manor Complex – 2345 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors


Rough Stock Events

Bull Riding

The ultimate event of the rodeo, Bull Riding is an advanced version of Junior Bull Riding, but with a one-half ton more beef to contend with and the added danger that many bulls turn back on the rider and attempt to get even for having their routine disrupted.  Guaranteed, once you are on the bull and the gate opens, few riders ever leave this event without being slammed to the ground and scurrying for cover, as the Bull Fighter moves in to save the cowboy or cowgirl.

Bareback Bronc Riding

A specially designed collection of leather and cinches used for this event is called a “bareback riggin.”  Compared to the bull rope, this one is really tied on to the animal and has a built-in hand hold.  Another difference is that the rider must start the ride with both of his or her feet extended forward over the horse’s shoulders and on the first leap out of the chute, “rake” backwards toward the horse’s rump.  If the rider misses this, called “marking out,” it does not matter how great the rest of the ride is, he or she will receive a DQ.  If the rider is lucky enough to make the 6 seconds, he or she may be plucked to safety as the two “pick-up men” move in and attempt to rescue the rider from his or her bucking mount.  Contestants may elect to ride two-handed from start to finish, but will also receive a lower score.

Chute Dogging

This event is designed to give even the novice a chance to compete in rough stock events.  The steer and the contestant both start in the bucking chute and face a 60-second time limit.  When the chute gate opens, the contestant must bring the steer out to a 10-foot line in front of the chute, and then attempt to wrestle, or “dog” the steer to the ground.  The contestant will turn the steer’s head up and toward the steer’s shoulder, hoping the steer will fall over on it’s other shoulder, causing all four feet to point in the same direction as the head was turned.  If the steer is contrary and falls the other way, it is termed a “dog fall” and the contestant can either attempt to turn the head the same direction or let the steer up and start over.  In this event either the contestant “dogs” or gets “dogged.”

Roping Events

Gay rodeo presents three roping events with one designed for beginners.  The other two can be costly, because success depends on a very good horse.  Many roping horses sell for $10,000 and up.  These events always begin with the contestant in a “roping box.”  An imaginary start line runs across the front of the roping box and the chute where the calf or steer is held.  Should the contestant cross this line, called the “barrier,” before the calf or steer clears the chute, a 10-second penalty shall be assessed and added on to the time. The three roping events include Calf Roping on Foot, Mounted Break-Away Roping and Team Roping.

Speed Events

Speed and agility are two highly prized qualities in these contestant’s horses. These three speed events pit the horse, under the skillful hand of it’s rider, against the clock. Negotiating the prescribed pattern is a test of the rider’s skill and the horse’s speed and agility. A running start is permitted in these events and the fastest time wins.

Barrel Race

Contestants vie for the fasted time in running a triangular, cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. The horse and rider are allowed a running start and time begins and ends upon crossing a visible starting line. A 5-second penalty is assessed for knocking over a barrel. The pattern can be started either from the left or right, and contestants that go off the prescribed course are disqualified.

Pole Bending
In this event, horse and rider compete for fastest time working a linear pattern through six equally spaced poles. The poles must be at least 6 feet in height and spaced 21 feet apart. A running start is allowed and a 5-second penalty will be assessed for knocking a pole down, and disqualification will take place if the team goes off course.

Flag Race

A triangular pattern similar to that of the barrel race is used, with the substitution of a pole in place of barrel number three. The two other barrels will have a bucket that is 3/4 full of rabbit pellets placed on top of it, and a flag in one of these buckets. If the rider knocks over the first bucket or the pole, a 5-second penalty will be assessed.

Camp Events

Whenever a group of cowhands get together for a good time, hell is going to be raised! Prerequisites for participation are a willingness to eat dirt and the ability to hold your own with an ornery steer or goat. Sixty percent of gay contestants get their start in these three events and the old-timers stay in because the payoffs (or winnings) are the best of all events.

Steer Decorating

This event requires a two-person team.  One member stands ten feet from the chute gate holding the end of a 25-foot rope, which is looped around the steer’s horns.  The other team member stands 40 feet from the chute and has a 24-inch long ribbon.  When the chute gate opens, the team must bring the steer out and across the ten-foot line.  One team member tries to tie the ribbon on the steer’s tail while the other team member tries to remove the rope from the steer’s horns.  When the ribbon is on the tail and the loop is off the horns, the ribbon-tier must tag the timer.

Wild Drag Race

The Wild Drag Race is an audience favorite all across the IGRA rodeo circuit. A team is made up of one male, one female, one “drag” (either male or female), and one wild steer. When the chute gate opens, the team tries to direct (or harass) the steer toward the finish line, which is 70 feet from the chute. They must get the steer across the finish line, mount the “drag,” and then ride back across the finish line.

Goat Dressing

This two-person event was created specially for gay rodeo.  The team stands 50 feet from the point where the goat is tethered.  One of the team members has a pair of jockey-style underwear worn over their forearms. When the whistle sounds, the team runs to the goat.  The team member without the underwear picks up the goat’s rear hooves, grabs the underwear from around the other member’s arms, and pulls it up the legs of the goat.  Both team members must then race back to the start/finish line and cross the finish line to stop the time.  The underwear must stay over the goat’s tail bone until the timer is tagged by both members.

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