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By Megan Wadding
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR), which will take place at NRG Park on March 7–26, is one of the most exciting events of the year for the city of Houston and is known for drawing millions of people from all over.
For members of Houston’s LGBTQ community looking to enjoy the rodeo’s festivities, Out at the Rodeo (OATR) will take place on the weekend of March 11–12.
OATR, an annual grassroots event, is a planned outing to the rodeo specifically for the LGBTQ community. It was organized by two friends, Doug Mason and Eric Hulsey, with the idea of it being an inclusive event for the LGBTQ community and its allies that takes place during the HLSR as a mass-coordinated outing.
Mason said to expect “fun, friends, and fried foods” during the event.
First held in March of 2016, OATR welcomes over 2,000 participants, all readily recognizable to each other at the event by the participants wearing a pre-purchased, coordinated, red official OATR T-shirt, according to Mason.
“[OATR] was a joint effort between myself and Eric Hulsey, ” said Mason, OATR co-chair. “We saw an opportunity for a more inclusive rodeo outing and jumped on making it happen.”
Mason and Husley, who initially got to know each other through work, created the outing because they felt there was a need for more inclusivity, particularly at the rodeo.
“I think there is always a need for more inclusive ideals,” explained Mason. “OATR is just a small way of showing that the LGBTQ community is making a positive supportive impact on the HLSR, not only as visitors, but as volunteers, organizers, and leaders.”
All attendees are encouraged to purchase the official red OATR T-shirts, and in order to be identifiable to each other, they are also encouraged to wear the shirts to the OATR events.
A pre-OATR event, Rodeo Round-Up, will be held at Neon Boots Dancehall and Saloon on March 11.
“[Rodeo Round-Up] is a promo night to get OATR in front of more people,” said Mason, who added that OATR T-shirts will be on sale at the event. “For more details, folks can check on Facebook or our website as the date gets closer.”
T-shirts can also be purchased on the OATR website. Proceeds from the sales will benefit AIDS Foundation Houston, which supports efforts to help prevent new HIV infections and helps to empower those affected by HIV/AIDS, according to their website.
Although OATR is not officially sanctioned, organized, or sponsored by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, OATR’s main outing will consist of two official meet-ups during the rodeo on Sunday, March 12. The first will be held at the Champion Wine Garden at 12 p.m. and the other at Committeeman’s Lounge at 3 p.m. for a concert by The Chainsmokers. This will be a way for participants to meet each other and mingle.
“The two meet-ups are an opportunity to relax, grab a drink, and meet new friends,” said Mason.
Mason said they are “excited” for the meet-up events at the rodeo.
“Last year we had a blast at the Committeeman’s Lounge,” said Mason. “We met so many great folks and loved seeing old friends. The fried food isn’t too shabby!”
Participants in OATR are encouraged to partake in social media during the event by checking into the OATR Facebook event and also by adding the hashtag #OATR2017 to any posts and photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
“This is a day for everyone to plan on attending the HLSR to have a good time with friends,” Mason said.
What: Out at the Rodeo
When: March 11 & 12
Where: March 11 at Neon Boots Dancehall and Saloon, 11410 Hempstead Rd; March 12 at The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, NRG Park, 1 NRG Park