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Rocking the Rink

Rainbow on Ice, DJ Joe Ross return to Discovery Green.

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There aren’t a lot of places for outdoor ice skating in Houston— we like our rinks in malls, so it’s exciting each year when Discovery Green’s Kinder Lake looks like it was kissed by Frozen’s Elsa.

“We are thrilled to bring back The Ice powered by Green Mountain Energy for its 10th year,” says Discovery Green president and park director Barry Mandel. “This family-friendly attraction has become a mainstay of holiday traditions, and we invite the entire community to join us.”

The annual event runs through January 21, but January 11 is the date for Rainbow on Ice, the biggest LGBTQ dance party on ice in the state. And, as usual, DJ Joe Ross will be spinning the tunes.

DJ Joe Ross

“I’ve done it for probably four years now,” says Ross, who has been a popular DJ at LGBTQ nightclubs including F Bar, South Beach, and other venues throughout the country. And he’s won Favorite Male DJ in OutSmart’s Gayest & Greatest Awards several times.

“Rainbow on Ice is a gay event,” he says, “but it’s a family event, and that’s why it’s so special. Most of the clubs I DJ at, you have to be over 21 to get in. So I like seeing the kids out here. It’s great to watch kids seeing a drag queen for the first time—kids are so nonjudgmental. Plus, I have a gay nephew who’s too young for the clubs, so he can come to this event and watch his uncle at work.”

Ross, 40, loves music and has no plans to give up working as a DJ, although he does sell real estate by day. He’s currently single and living in Montrose, but his life hasn’t always been a happy tune.

He grew up in a Mormon family in Deer Park. After his first teenage gay experience, he actually tried the church’s counseling program until he realized it wasn’t for him.

“But my family was great,” he says. “It wasn’t what they were expecting, but they wanted me to be my authentic self. They’ve supported me ever since.”

So he moved to Montrose and started working at the clubs, eventually getting to DJ. But then, barely a decade later, he was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent aggressive chemotherapy. With the help of friends and family around him, as well as his music, he carried on and beat the cancer.

“Sometimes when I’m working, it feels like a gift—to do what you love to do and get paid for it,” he told OutSmart in 2015.

And he’s certainly looking forward to Rainbow on Ice again this year. His favorite musical genres are circuit and tech house. “At the clubs I like the higher-energy music, but for Ice I have to make sure the songs don’t have any bad words, because of the children.

“I know it’s a holiday event, but I don’t dress up or do anything festive in particular,” he adds. “I just wear gloves and a heavy coat because it’s always cold at that event.”

And you should probably do the same, although layers (maybe an ugly Christmas sweater or two?) might work better than a bulky coat if you are skating the rink. Although the event is free, if you don’t have your own skates you will need to rent some at the park. There will also be food and drinks, musical acts, and drag-queen performances.

“It’s always interesting to see drag queens on skates,” Ross says. “That’s so next-level!”

What: Rainbow on Ice
When: 7-10 p.m. on January 11
Where: Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St.
More info: discoverygreen.com or 713.434.RINK

This article appears in the January 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine. 

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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