Chance meetings of the heart are a rare thing, and even more in unexpected places. However, that is exactly how the meeting of rodeo couple Jan Stange and Denise Reinhart-Stange took place. The couple chatted exclusively with Baltimore OUTloud to share how they met, their passion for the rodeo and how love can overcome anything that ails the heart.
“I’d never been to a gay rodeo,” began Denise. “I went with a friend of mine, Todd Tramp, to the Oklahoma City rodeo in 2011. It was Memorial Day Weekend and I met Jan on that Friday night, and we’ve been together ever since. That day I also had a heart attack.”
“Yep,” Jan chimed in with a chuckle. “I gave her a heart attack. In all seriousness, though, she has a family history. Actually, the day she had her heart attack was the same day that her father had passed away 29 years earlier.”
“I was very lucky,” Denise added.
For Jan, her foray into rodeo began with a phone call from her brother. “In 2004, I received a call from my brother Carl, who was in Minnesota at the time and asked for me to come up and see the rodeo. He surprised me when I saw that he was competing in the rodeo. I started competing with him, and we’d always have fun competing against our times.”
It was at Denise’s first rodeo in 2011, that Jan and Denise met. “She walked in with Todd, a good buddy of mine. I was there with my brother Carl. Todd and Carl always had a friendly rivalry competing-wise. I was standing there talking to the Arena Director, and Todd introduced me to his new buddy.” Jan laughed. “He was like ‘Let me go introduce her to all the girls.’ Todd is like the Elton John of the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) rodeos. So, he took her around and I just left it alone and kept competing. But then I realized every time I looked up by the chutes she was there starting at me.”
Denise and Jan married in November 2012 in Sioux City, Iowa with their closest family members and their rodeo family present. Jan added, “Both my brother Carl and Todd were there. They gave their speech about us.”
The two ladies, who now call Wichita, Kansas, home are members of the Red River Rodeo Association. Denise, who is a certified Chute Coordinator, will be attending the 2nd Annual Keystone State Charity Rodeo with Jan this June.
“I competed in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and took my own wild drag team to finals that I qualified in.” Denise explained. “It was hard to find a consistent team with the same people. Also, I’m 50-plus years-old, and I just thought that I didn’t want to get hurt. I need my job, and I’m not a very good just sitting in the stands kind of person. My daughters used to show cattle. So, I as very comfortable around them. It made sense to go into the chute coordinator program. So, I did every rodeo in 2014 and 2015 and became certified in Palm Springs in 2016. I’m not the committee chair but I help train any new certification program members who are interested in the program and want to be certified.”
Denise and Jan are both very excited for the upcoming Keystone State Charity Rodeo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, this June. “I am looking forward to them using a different stock contractor this year.” Denise said. “I was their chute coordinator last year and I’m looking forward to working with someone new, and a stress and drama free rodeo. From an official’s standpoint, I’m looking forward to it running smoothly.” Jan added, “I won the All-Around Buckle at Keystone. I’m originally from Ohio, so I love the Ohio-Pennsylvania area. I love the Steelers, so it’s great to be over there. I just love the country there – it’s beautiful country. I also loved where the rodeo was held. It was really nice, and I hope it stays there.”
Plan to attend the Keystone State Charity Rodeo, June 22nd to 24th, where you will meet the cowboys, cowgirls, and members of the IGRA rodeo family from all over the US.
For more information, visit Ksgra.org.
- Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.