Ty's at the Hoedown

  • by David Elijah-Nahmod
  • Thursday October 19, 2017
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Openly gay country music superstar Ty Herndon will be the special guest at the 20th anniversary Hoedown and Sundance Stompede. Herndon will be appearing at the Regency Ballroom on Saturday October 21.

Since 1997, The Hoedown and Sundance Stompede has been the premiere event for LGBT country music fans in the Bay Area. The event was rooted in the desire for director Ingu Yun to create a large fundraiser with the fledgling country-western dance community.

Serving on the Bare Chest Calendar that year, Ingu enlisted the help of his fellow calendar men to staff the Hoedown. The first Hoedown attracted about 300 attendees and raised $4000 for the AIDS Emergency Fund.

Hoedown 2017 is the centerpiece event of the four-day Sundance Stompede, an LGBT+ country-western dance weekend with four consecutive nights of dance events and three days of dance workshops, October 19 through 22. As before, proceeds from these events will benefit AIDS Emergency Fund.

For Herndon, appearing at fundraisers like these is all in a day's work.

"In music, we give back," he said in a phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "We're tithing back to the people who make it possible for us to have a career."

Donating his time to AIDS charities is but a small part of his advocacy. Herndon is a leading supporter of LGBTQ youth.

"In churches and homes in the South, you can get thrown out into the street for being gay," he notes. "I talk to parents and tell them they must let their kids come out. No one should have the right to throw their kids out. One of my goals is to take the message of Harvey Milk to parents."

Herndon is a strong believer in Milk's message of coming out and of equality for all. "I came out in my own perfect time," he said.

Herndon's coming out was a long, uphill battle. During the 1990s he charted 17 singles on the country charts, packing them in at concert venues across the USA. But then there were several lawsuits, weight gain, a divorce from his second wife and a stint in rehab. He was also arrested for indecent exposure in Fort Worth, Texas. The charges were eventually dropped.

His sexuality became a "hot topic" following the Fort Worth incident. In a 2014 interview in People, Herndon publicly came out as a gay man in a long-term relationship.

In addition to appearing at Hoedown, Herndon is currently touring the South with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. The idea is to bring the message of tolerance and inclusion to towns which Trump won by wide margins, hoping to open hearts and minds.

"Next we go to Birmingham and Knoxville," he said. "It's an honor to be a part of this."

At the Hoedown, Herndon promises to sing all of his hits, including his new song, "House on Fire," in which he confronts sexuality and silence.

"I'm not interested in Facebook or Twitter," he said. "I'm interested in stories like 'House on Fire.' You can only write songs from your truth. I'm alive for a reason; to play my songs, tell my stories and hope they help."

Herndon noted that though he loves San Francisco (he's been here a number of times), he intends to keep his home in the South where he can continue to reach gay kids who need to hear that they're okay.

"We're all one heart," he said. "I truly believe we can love each other."

For more information on Hoedown 2017 and Sunday Stampede please visit: www.stompede.com or www.tyherndon.com