No horsing around

The members of Smoky Mountain Rodeo Association (SMRA) have steered through a year of economic difficulty, and they remain committed to supporting the philanthropic community throughout the region.

In 2010, SMRA donated almost $4,500 to local 501(c)(3) charities, a considerable amount given the various pressures involved with operating a non-profit organization.

"I would say that SMRA experienced many of the same struggles that other groups and especially charities did last year," said Brett Withers, treasurer for SMRA. "The jobs market impacted some of our members in terms of increased workload or job loss. From the outset of the year it was evident that carrying on fundraising events would be a struggle when it seemed like everyone had less time and money to give to charitable causes.  We had actually been through a growth year in 2009, so we really had to revise our expectations for 2010."

He adds, "We're very proud to have been able to contribute so much to charities this year despite these struggles. At the end of 2010 SMRA had raised enough money to be able to match our 2009 levels of finaNcial support to our member-voted charity partners."

SMRA became the twenty-fourth official entrant in the International Gay Radio Association in 2003, and has since offered an entertaining and educational experience of the western lifestyle. Since its inception, SMRA has donated almost $39,000 to local 501(c)(3) charities.

 In past years, these events have benefited such organizations as Alive Hospice, Angel Heart Farm, the Louisville AIDS Walk, the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation, Nashville CARES/Nashville AIDS Walk and OutCentral. Withers notes that it was a special privilege this year for SMRA to participate in the Bianca Paige tribute.

"We were very honored to have been remembered by Bianca, and and pitched in to help with the memorial event," he says. "Our area of focus was to organize and staff the silent auction portion of that event, which was very successful. As an organization, SMRA has a special place for Bianca, who did so much to help promote SMRA and our charity partners when we were getting established."

After last spring's flooding in Middle Tennessee, SMRA scaled back on their fundraising events and submitted donations to a local charity for flood relief. These donations are decided by the membership, and monthly meetings keep apprised of the organization's activities.

SMRA is actively seeking members to fill the following positions: advertising chair, audit chair and inventory chair. Sponsors to assist in offsetting costs of the organization are also welcomed.

"We have had new or existing members come forward to fill some open positions," Withers says. "We received a corporate sponsorship from FarmVet and are approaching others."

As an IGRA chapter, SMRA covers the states of Tennessee and Kentucky. In addition to their fundraising activities, SMRA members volunteer to work at gay rodeos in other chapters. Select members recently participated in International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) University, hosted this year by the city of St. Louis, Mo. More outreach is planned in the following months.

"We are planning several events for this year," said Michael Fierro, president of SMRA. "(We have a) Spring Round Up/Gay Ole Opry with drag and performance show, country dancing and silent auction on March 4. Then there's a Pub Crawl using a F.A.D.D. party bus, a Fall Round Up in Louisville, and a trail ride sometime this fall. We also have our rodeo planned for the third weekend of September 2012 at Clearview Farm in Shelbyville."

To learn more about our organization or about gay rodeo, please visit

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