Hi, my name's Ernie, and I'm honored to be serving as your trustee for the Liberty Gay Rodeo Association. I wanted to introduce myself, and tell everyone a little about what it is I do, what the association has coming up, and a little request to boot. But first of all, I'd like to thank everyone who has joined LGRA as a member, whether it be at one of our events or through the website. You are really helping to invest in our plan to bring the rodeo to Philadelphia for the first time in May of 2008. In under a year, LGRA has grown to over 150 members, which is comparable to a big chunk of the other rodeo associations around the country that have been around for years. I am committed to giving 110% to contributing my part in helping put on an event its members deserve, and something long-lasting for the community. Also, I am very grateful for the men and women who have aided us so much with the work and events we have already done. Volunteers like Jeff C, Shane, Mark, Ed, Chris, Jim, as well as June, John, and Cliff (I'm really sorry if I've left out anybody) have given much time and effort at our different events, and I as well as the rest of the board are so appreciative of their help. And I want to give special thanks to John Stypa, for devoting so much time for developing such a smashing website, and Jade Meskunas for putting out a great newsletter. And finally in the thank you department, thanks to Michael, Jen, Jeff, Rocco, and Cindy for helping put this thing together before I came aboard.
Now as for me, if you don't know me, I've been a resident of Yardville, New Jersey all of my life (save for a college stint in Chicago). I've worked for Verizon for seventeen years, currently in repair dispatch. My "route to this destination" of helping with the rodeo comes from 16 years of country dancing between Pennsy, Jersey, and New York. The "two-stepping community" as it is has been a great social and physical outlet that I think defies the normal stereotypes of gay life, either by us or by the mainstream. I am lucky to have as a result the best of friends and buddies a man can dream of. And let me tell you, I was obsessed. At one point, I was going to different places sometimes 4-5 times a week. Ah, the days of lower gas prices. Well in 1992 I found out about the gay rodeo in DC and was able to make it down there. I was floored. I have seen rodeo events before, but nothing like this. Between the regular steer and bull riding, calf roping, and horse events, there were fun "camp" events like Goat Dressing, Steer Deco, and the Wild Drag Race (you can see descriptions and videos for all these events on DC's excellent website www.asgra.org ). All this amongst bleachers full of ordinary men and women enjoying the time of their lives. I haven't missed attending one since in DC. A few years back, my friends Jeff (our membership chair), Mark, and I got the nerve to enter ourselves in the "Dolly Madison Race" (a camp event that is like an obstacle course from the netherworld). Let me tell you we were all sorts of nervous. But it was an amazing experience. Since then I have learned how to do Steer Deco (which Jeff and I competed last year), Goat Dressing, and Chute Dogging with the help of the "play day" LGRA and ASGRA put on last August (my birthday weekend, even) in New Jersey. And if you ever have been to the rodeo, and though about trying something out, that is the way to go. You never know until you try, and heck, you can just do it for fun or even compete in the rodeo itself (we got a ribbon for 4th place, and believe me, I was very happy about it). We will be putting on another play day or two next year, and will keep everyone posted on it. C'mon and cowboy up!
Now as I had said before, I'm Liberty GRA's trustee. As such, firstly I'm our association's "voice" on the board of directors for IGRA (The International Gay Rodeo Association, our parent organization), almost like a "union steward", representing us at board meetings and at various rodeos. I'm the liaison to bring information on national happenings in IGRA. Secondly, I'm conversely IGRA's link to our rodeo, and I am responsible for enforcing and administering IGRA's standards to our rodeo as well as other rodeos in our circuit. The trustees are required to make sure all rodeo specifications (safety rules, event specs, etc.) are being met, clear any variances for rodeo events, and resolve any disputes on judging and execution of the rodeo itself. In doing this, I am not only preserving the quality and uniformity of the events that IGRA sanctions throughout the US and Canada, but also protect the contestants and spectators as well. I hold this responsibility in the highest regard. In addition to all this, I'm right now being a jack-of-all-trades, helping the rest of the board with the long but important journey in setting up our first rodeo. I'll be the first to admit I've got a lot to learn still, but I'm committed to helping in anyway I can. If you have any sort of question about either our rodeo or the other rodeos around the country, or even IGRA's goings-on in general, please write me or see me out, if I don't know myself I know how to find out.
Liberty has a great even coming up, our first bachelor/bachelorette auction at Woody's on Friday, December 8th. Dancing will be extended from 6-11pm, and the auction will be interspersed with dancing starting at 9pm. You can look at the wonderful people (and one horse) who volunteered their time for this and are up for "bid" by checking the website www.libertygra.org under "events". Also even though the leaves are falling, we are still doing trail rides the first sunday of each month. It's a great oppurtunity for those who love to ride as well as those that want to learn (absolutely no experience needed). Details are also in the events section.
Lastly, I said I had a little request. Actually, I have two requests. First, if you see me round at twostepping or anywhere else, please come and introduce yourself to me. I know a lot of our members already from country dancing, but there are a lot I have yet to meet, and would love the opportunity to do so. You can ask me anything (well....) and I promise to be helpful and honest. You can also get ahold of me at the email firstname.lastname@example.org. Secondly, and most importantly, I would like to ask everyone to get involved. This association is really a team effort, and is definitely not the vehicle or one or a few people. Between the rodeo events themselves, LGRA also is involved in a whole myriad of other things, like fundraisers, community work, promotion, and your talents can really help. If you don't think you would have anything to contribute, either skillwise or timewise, please reconsider. You never know what assistance we need that you may be helpful with until then. As I mentioned before, many people have put time and effort into helping this along, and I am so more than grateful for that. My feeling is the more people involved with this, the better this organization can be. Especially helpful right now would be anyone who would like to help with public relations, artwork, sponsorship, and social events. Heck even if you want to give an idea you have or to help set up something for an event we're doing, I'd really love to hear from you.
I'd like to close by saying I'm really excited about our future. We've got a long road ahead, but I am confident we're gonna be putting on a show to remember in 2008!