This week we're headed back to the home of Mount Rushmore! We are featuring the current Miss Rodeo South Dakota, Kay Marrs! Keep reading to see what life has been like for Kay since she won the title of Miss Rodeo South Dakota and what she's looking forward to in the remainder of her year as she continues traveling the country and preparing for Miss Rodeo America in December!
How did you become involved in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
I was one of those little girls that always loved, loved, loved rodeos and rodeo queens. I collected rodeo queen autographs for years and even made a scrapbook of them all; it was always my dream to be one of the ladies in my scrapbook that I looked up to. I grew up on a ranch and have always been comfortable around cattle and on the back of a horse but because my parents never rodeoed, it wasn't something that I was brought up with or knew was an option for me to participate in. Fast forward a few years and I decided I wanted to try a rodeo queen pageant but due to some other circumstances, it didn't work out. A little later, I was asked by a neighbor if I would consider running for Jr. Miss Rodeo SD. I was a little hesitant because it was a state pageant and I didn't have any rodeo queen experience under my belt but ultimately decided to go for it. I can honestly say that God must have wanted me there because He brought so many people out of the woodwork that offered to help me, from interview practice to horsemanship and borrowing clothes, He blessed me beyond measure just through those people before I even got to the pageant. I was fortunate to win JRMRSD and truly had a remarkable time, and that was it, I was hooked! The rest they say, is history and here I am as MRSD 2018!
Why did you decide to compete for the title of Miss Rodeo South Dakota?
Like I mentioned above, it was always my dream to be Miss Rodeo South Dakota. Besides being a time to travel to rodeos across the country and meet some amazing people, it's also a unique opportunity to not only advocate for the sport of rodeo but agriculture as well. Being a voice for agriculture has always been a huge passion of mine and to be able to combine that passion and love of rodeo into one, is truly a dream job and one I wouldn't trade for the world! I also wanted to be able to do the same for children today that rodeo queens did for me when I was young; be a positive influence and light for Jesus in a world that desperately needs kindness and hope.
I saw on your social media you did a lot before taking over the title of Miss Rodeo South Dakota as the Lady-in-waiting including attending the Miss Rodeo America Pageant last December. What did you learn from watching and do you feel more relaxed during your prep for Miss Rodeo America this year?
Yes and no haha! It was incredibly helpful to see every part of the public aspect of the pageant to get an idea of what would be expected of me. No matter what pageants you have been to or competed in, MRA is at another level and it was good to see it up close and personal. I'm one of those people that makes "game plans" in my head so to be there to take notes on what to expect was helpful! It will be a little different than what I saw at the MGM, as the pageant this year will be moved to The Tropicana but much of the pageant will be the same.
What has been one of your favorite appearances thus far as Miss Rodeo South Dakota and what is one thing you are looking forward to during the remainder of your reign?
Picking a favorite appearance is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child! There have been so many fantastic experiences so far and the year is only half over. One of my favorite things I've been able to be a part of as MRSD at a few rodeos is being part of a "wish" with the Children's Western Wish Foundation. The foundation was started by one of the most kind, selfless, and giving gals I have ever met. One wish in particular belonged to a sweet little girl who had been through so much, medically, and her wish was to be a rodeo princess. She was presented with a cowboy hat covered with signatures of contestants, rodeo personnel, and rodeo queens, and also her very own tiara, belt buckle, and queen sash. One of the pickup men then ponied her around the arena for her queen run! I have never seen so much joy on a little girl's face in my life and it was such a priceless experience that will always hold a special place in my heart. I am genuinely looking forward to more time together with my sash sisters. We truly have a group of state queens that are genuine, kind, passionate about rodeo, and just plain fun to be around! It's been such a blast to travel with them and I'm looking forward to more memories made with them this year!
What is one obstacle you faced while preparing for the Miss Rodeo South Dakota pageant and how did you overcome it?
I had two goals going into MRSD: I wanted to win the categories of horsemanship and speech. Coming up with a game plan to be confident with the extemporaneous speeches was an obstacle I knew I had to tackle. 4 months before the pageant, my mom would give me a random topic, set a timer for 10 minutes, and in then I would give a speech on the topic. Honestly, I was terrible at first! I rambled, did weird things with my hands, and was either over or under time. We did that at least every other day for those 4 months. Eventually, I figured out how to organize my thoughts and what I could fit into 1.5-2 minutes. That helped tremendously and when it came to the speech portion of the pageant, I wasn't nervous and delivered a speech that was clear, in the time allotment, and helped me win the speech category!
What do you think is the most important characteristic a rodeo queen should have?
I can't say just one; I have two must-haves! Teachability and a servant heart. Always be willing to learn, because we won't ever know everything and being open to new information or a new way to do something and being willing to learn will take you far, not just in rodeo queening, but life in general. Being a servant means being willing to help out in any way possible, no matter where you are. Pitch in and help out wherever you go! The smallest act of kindness can make a huge impact that we may never know about.
What is one piece of advice your director, Cindy Wilk, has given you during your reign that you will cherish even after you give up your title?
Cindy is absolutely amazing, I basically have her on speed dial. We talk almost on a daily basis, not because we have to, but because we've become friends and just enjoy talking to one another, whether it's rodeo queen related or not. One thing that she has always told me that I will never forget, is to be myself and not to change who I am for anyone or anything. God made me "me" and nothing about that needs to change!
If you could give just one tip or trick on rodeo queening to girls that are new in the industry, what would it be?
You do not have to spend a fortune to go after your rodeo queen dreams! When I ran for JRMRSD, 80% of my clothes were borrowed and I won. My mom sews shirts and dresses for me and I put crystals on them. I've found shirts at thrift stores and turned them into queen shirts. I know lots of gals that swap and borrow clothes too. One more little tip I would pass along for girls that are starting out on this wonderful rodeo queen journey: if you're serious about being a rodeo queen, invest in a good hat. Our cowboy hats are the most recognizable piece of clothing that we wear. People, young and old see our hats and immediately think "cowgirl!" You don't need to spend a fortune, but get one good hat that fits and is shaped nicely. And get lots of bobby pins to make sure it stays on in the arena! I wish I had stock in bobby pins for as many as I go through! A few final words; while our outward appearance is a large part of being a queen, it is so much more important that we are beautiful on the inside first! One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Payne and he sums it up perfectly, "Reputation is what men and women think of us, character is what God and angels know of us." Remember that nothing is ever impossible, be true to yourself, and enjoy the ride!
Kay makes a very good point during this interview about how you don't need to spend a fortune to be a successful rodeo queen. Often times girls are too afraid to compete in rodeo pageants because of the cost of clothing, which should never be a reason to not chase your dreams. Having the most expensive clothes doesn't make you a better person on the inside either. To be successful, you have to remain true to yourself throughout the entire competition and even if you are crowned as the queen. As far as clothes, swap shop facebook groups are amazing! You never know what you are going to find for such a low cost!
Until next time,
Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant
Photos courtesy of Kay Marrs
What is your favorite part about rodeo?
Spending time with my family and my horse.
What do you like to do in your free time when you aren't rodeoing?
Clean the barn, practice, and take care of the horses.
Who is your rodeo role model?
On this week's edition of Titleholder Tuesday, we are once again combining it with Tip Tuesday! This week we are talking to former Miss Rodeo Washington 1996, Karie O'Donnell-Herbers! Karie served as the Miss Rodeo Washington National Director for ten years and is now on the scholarship foundation board for Miss Rodeo America. She is going to talk some about her time as Miss Rodeo Washington and the importance of scholarships in rodeo queen pageants.
What is your background in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
I've been involved in rodeo my entire life. My grandfather was a rodeo announcer and my grandmother a barrel racer. Both of my parents did junior rodeo and my dad also served as a rodeo veterinarian. I started doing rodeo pageants in the early 90's and was hooked.
How did being Miss Rodeo Washington and competing in the Miss Rodeo America pageant prepare you for life and your current career?
Being Miss Rodeo Washington and competing for MRA gave me so many real life skills! From interviewing, public speaking, networking, marketing and fundraising, to how to study. I could go on and on. I work in pharmaceutical sales and pageants prepared me so much for the real world and for my career.
Why did you decide to go back to the Miss Rodeo America pageant after your time as a titleholder and give back to the pageant?
I was Miss Rodeo Washington in 1996 and immediately following that year I joined the MRW board of directors and began volunteering for MRA. I served as National Director for Washington for 10 years, served 6 years on the MRA executive Board and have been on the MRA scholarship foundation for many years now. I am so proud to be the first state titleholder have served as the MRASF president.
Why is it important for former contestants and queens to give back to pageants they competed in or held a title for?
We need to have a continuous stream of volunteers. We all need to remember someone was there to volunteer when we competed, now it's our turn to give back. We have a unique viewpoint because we have lived it.
How did you become involved in the Scholarship Committee for MRA?
After serving as a National Director for 10 years I felt I needed a change and "retired". Once I wasn't involved on a state level any longer it opened me to apply to serve on the scholarship foundation and so I submitted my resume. I believe education is the greatest gift we can give someone. Helping to set young ladies up for their futures is amazing and I am so proud to be a part of the foundation.
Why is it so important that rodeo pageants across the nation give scholarships to the women competing in their pageants?
As I mentioned, education is the greatest gift we can give and it's something that no one can ever take away from you. The MRASF awards approximately $100,000 in scholarships every year including a minimum of $1000 to each contestant that competes at MRA. Local pageants that provide scholarships are supporting the young ladies who support them. Most local rodeo queens never get the opportunity to compete at MRA or for those scholarship monies. We need to assist these young ladies futures because they are the future of rodeo, agriculture and preserving our Western Way of Life!
Do you have any tips on how to grow scholarship funds in all levels of pageants especially the local level where it may be harder to do?
I highly recommend looking into forming a separate association for the scholarship funds and try to get federal non-profit status. Many companies need tax write offs and supporting the young ladies that represent rodeo is a fantastic opportunity. Think outside the box. People, businesses, etc only have so much product or finds to give. Don't go to those who are already donating large amounts to similar organizations. Additionally, you have to offer them something in return for their donation. It could be printed (and web) advertising or autograph sessions at their locations or whatever works best for them, but they need something. And once you have a sponsor or donor in place you have to continue to take care of them. Be loyal to their brand or company, thank them (written thank you cards as well as public recognition), promote them, praise them, make them want to continue to support your organization.
What is one piece of advice you would give to girls who are just starting out in the rodeo queen world? Remember that being a title holder is a full time 24/7 job. Even when you're not on an official appearance people still know who you are and will watch what you do. You must remember you are representing your title everywhere you go and In everything you do and say no matter if you're in your crown and banner or at the grocery store. Treat your board of directors as your bosses, your supporters and rodeos as your customers and do the best job you can. Oh and leave the cell phone in your pickup. Someone with their eyes glued to their phone is not approachable.
How important is it for us to give back to our pageants we were involved in? Very! Every year there is a team of volunteers that help out with running the pageants and even helping throughout each girl's reign. We are so fortunate to be in a industry that so many people are involved with and love to give back to. Our western way of life is so near and dear to each and every one of us and honestly volunteers are a big contribution to what keeps us going. Next time you're somewhere, thank a volunteer.
Thank you Karie so much for doing this interview with us! It's always great to get advice from someone who has been involved with the Miss Rodeo America pageant for many years!
Until next time,
Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant
Photos courtesy of: Karie O'Donnell-Herbers
We have had a lot of positive feedback from our Titleholder Tuesday segment so we decided to create Member Monday! This segment features ORA contestants every Monday throughout the year! Get to know our members who make up the Ozark Rodeo Association! I hope you enjoy!
What is your favorite part about rodeo?
My favorite part about rodeo is that it is such a unique sport that we all compete individually but yet we are all so close and hope the best for each other!
What do you do in your free time when you aren't rodeoing?
I love going to the river, going to horse sales, and hanging out with friends!
Who is your rodeo role model?
My rodeo role model(s) are the people that are not the best, but they are the people that do not care about winning, they are the people that are out there to have fun, because they love what they are doing. Sometimes when I get a big head on my shoulders I have to stop and think about it because I am not doing it for all the right reasons at that point, because rodeo is supposed to be something you love to do, it's suppose to be fun!
This week we're headed to the Deep South to the state that brought us Root Beer in 1898! Yes that's right, we're meeting Miss Rodeo Mississippi 2018 Taylor McNair! We can't wait for you all to read what Taylor has been up to so far during her year as Miss Rodeo Mississippi and she even gives us some fundraising tips!
How did you become involved in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
My mom was a local jackpot barrel racer growing up, so I would always tag along on my pony, "Gypsy." I was a member of the Little Britches Rodeo Association in Kindergarten but decided to take a break after my horse, "Patches," passed away. That break lasted almost 10 years! My love of professional rodeo continued to grow but my time aboard a horse did not. I did not climb back into the saddle until I was about 15 years old. Some of my friends held a local queen title, Junior Miss Dixie National, and I thought it sounded cool! So, I entered and won on my second try. Since then, I was hooked and my passion for the state of Mississippi, professional rodeo, and agriculture has only grown.
What has been your most memorable appearance so far as Miss Rodeo Mississippi?
That is a hard one! Each appearance is unique, no two are ever the same. So, I can appreciate each appearance for different reasons! I have to say my time in Lake Charles, Louisiana at the Southwest District Livestock Show & Rodeo sticks out. It was one of my first rodeos as Miss Rodeo Mississippi! Keri, Miss Rodeo America, and I went around town in a limo, met with sponsors, spoke to schools, rode on a mule-pulled wagon, pushed cattle out during the rodeo, and enjoyed some amazing Cajun cuisine!
Who inspired you to compete for the title of Miss Rodeo Mississippi?
KELLI JACKSON RUSSELL - she is one-in-a-million! To know Kelli, is to love her!
As you know traveling up and down the road for a year promoting the sport of rodeo plus preparing a wardrobe can add up, what are some of your fundraising tips that help you throughout your year?
Work for it! I created sponsorship packets and distributed them. In the beginning, I reached out to local businesses and was fortunate enough to receive support from many. But recently I sold toothpaste, yes toothpaste! If you want it bad enough you will do whatever it takes to fund your dreams.
Only two women from Mississippi has ever won the title of Miss Rodeo America, Kelli Jackson Russell and Paige Nicholson, what would it mean to you to bring the crown to Mississippi for the third time?
To be the third woman to capture the title of Miss Rodeo America would be unfathomable at this point. However, I would be honored to follow in the boots of those spectacular women that went before me. I would give 100% to truly make a difference and bring my own unique skills to the title.
Besides winning the title, what is your goal going into Miss Rodeo America?
I really wanted to increase the social media base for the Miss Rodeo Mississippi Foundation, encourage more girls to compete for the title of Miss Rodeo Mississippi, and do my absolute best at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant.
What is one thing you are looking forward to during the remainder of your year as Miss Rodeo Mississippi?
I am looking forward to Cowboy Christmas out west! The summer run coming up excites me! Especially the opportunity to attend Cheyenne Frontier Days and Cody Stampede.
Since you do travel so much, what is one thing you make sure to always pack in your suitcase?
Mini Steamer - It is great for releasing wrinkles from clothes and shaping hats that may have lost shape during travel.
If you could give one piece of advice to girls just starting out in the rodeo queen industry, what would it be?
BE YOU! We are so lucky that we are each individually made in our own unique way. Use that to your advantage at the pageant and as a reigning queen! The judges choose the winner not because she is perfect, but because she brings something special to the title.
Ladies if you want your dreams to come true, work for them. I may seem like a broken record at this point, but these state titleholders didn't get their titles handed to them, they worked for it. If you're not sure how to fundraise for your year, get creative! If there's a will, there's a way!
Thank you Taylor so much for taking the time to interview with us! We wish you the best of luck with the rest of your year and as you go on to compete for the title of Miss Rodeo America in December!
Until next week,
Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant
Photos courtesy of: Taylor McNair
Wow! We have been busy since our last update! After our long break from rodeos, we headed back chasing the white lines hard as well as traveling to Arkansas for our sponsor shoot with Sherry Smith Photography! Before the girls talk about what they've been up to, I would like to formally introduce to everyone on our blog our new Miss ORA 2018, Maddy Benson! Maddy is the 20 year old daughter of Bucky and Billie Benson of Farmington, MO. She currently competes in barrel racing, goat tying, and ribbon roping with the Ozark Rodeo Association. Whenever Maddy isn't rodeoing she is either working as a paramedic or spending time with her family. Her future plans include going back to school in the near future. Please help us give Maddy a very warm welcome!
Wow! I can't believe this day is actually here! Although my reign has been short so far, there is a lot of rodeo season left. I am so blessed with the opportunity that I have been given. Some days I still think I am in shock when I wake up and see my crown and sash sitting on my dresser.
I will admit I was terrified when Shannon first messaged me asking if I wanted this position. I was excited, don't get me wrong, but all I could think is, "I have no clue how to be a rodeo queen." Though like most things I've done, I took a deep breath and jumped in head first. I haven't had one regret since. My first few weeks as Miss ORA 2018 have been nothing short of spectacular. I have been accepted with open arms by contestants, the board, and the fans.
As well as all the before mentioned people, Miss Teen ORA, Jacci Gregory, has made this transition a hundred times easier! Her kind words of encouragement and willingness to lend a hand or jump in has made all of this so much easier. Honestly, I'd probably be lost without her! As for the rest of the season, I don't know what it will hold, but if it's anything like the first few weeks, it'll be nothing short of amazing! I cannot wait to represent the association I hold so dearly to my heart for the rest of 2018!
-Miss ORA 2018
Some extremely awesome things have occurred since my last blog post! I have received some new sponsors, that have made this reign very exciting. Ellie L. Illustrations drew a picture of me with my chaps. She said it was her first time sketching a rodeo queen, but I have to say she nailed it!
Then on June 26th, I had the delightful experience to work with Sherry Smith. My director, Shannon, and I went to Arkansas, there Sherry spent over three hours taking pictures of me in different outfits! Sherry was so professional and was just so down to earth. She made the entire experience awesome!
We had a small break in rodeos, but picked right back up, and have been full swing since. June 22nd and 23rd the O.R.A. was at Cuba, MO. The next two weekends have been my favorite so far because we celebrated Independence Day! This year the 4th of July was in the middle of the week, therefore we celebrated both the weekend before and after. The weekend before on June on the 29th and 30th we were in Iberia, MO. There we did a tribute with flags that stood for every branch of the military including the Prisoners of War!
At that same rodeo, we announced that Maddy Benson would be stepping up as our new Miss ORA 2018. She has been a member of the Ozark Rodeo Association for a few years now and knows it just as well as anyone! She will represent us well, and I am excited for her to take over the title.
-Miss Teen ORA 2018
We are enjoying our must needed break with two weeks off before we hit the rodeo road hard again! The girls are working hard representing the association and competing in their respective events chasing points before heading to finals in October!
What's next on our schedule?
July 27&28 Versailles Rodeo
July 31 Cole County Fair
August 3&4 Dixon Rodeo
August 4 Mini Clinic/Informational Meeting before Dixon Rodeo
We hope to see you all there!
Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant
Did you ever feel a time when you thought you couldn't ever be a good rodeo queen because you hadn't won a title yet or you weren't a state or national level titleholder? Well that's where you're wrong. This week's titleholder hasn't won her state pageant (yet) or a national title, but still strives to be the best titleholder out there! Please help us welcome from the Beaver State, Kelsey Leinbach! Kelsey was Miss Molalla Royals and a contestant for the 2018 Miss Rodeo USA Pageant and is now working towards competing this August in the 2019 Miss Rodeo Oregon Pageant!
Photo by: Jeff Wong Photography
How did you become involved in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
Growing up in a state that is the literal birth place of Rodeo Queens, you are taught that the queens are royalty and to be on a rodeo court you basically have to become hometown royalty. I did 9 years of 4-H and help with the youth programs for the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys. The summer after I won my first rodeo buckle, I decided it was time to try out for my local title. On yhe day of our tryouts I came down with a case of the flu that my mom swears should have put me in the hospital. But I loaded up on cold medicine, tissues up my interview suit jacket, and rode my horse and a draw horse. Needless to say, I didn’t make it onto the court that year. My sister and I tried out for our regional pageant the following year and the queen scene in my family snowballed from there. My sisters held Jr Princess titles for the Molalla Buckeroo, one of my sisters held the 2017 Little Miss NPRA title, I am runner up to the 2018 Miss NPRA, and tried out for Miss Rodeo USA under my previous title of Miss Molalla Royals. I don’t regret a minute of it! The people I’ve met and the places queening has taken me has changed my life.
What was your experience like at Miss Rodeo USA?
The Miss Rodeo USA pageant was by far, without a doubt, no questions asked, the most laid back pageant I have ever participated in. The ladies that run it are beyond supportive and kind. I am still in contact with the friends I made during IFR. It was the first pageant that my extended family could attend (OKC is a short drive from Tulsa). It was really neat to see everyone together cheering for me. Because I arrived a day early, I went on a private after hours tour Shorty’s Caboy Hattery in OKC. There, they taught me how to make a custom hat! As a pageant group we spent quite a bit of time at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (If you are ever in OKC it is a MUST go). We performed at the Rodeo Opry and at Remington Park. We spent each night of IFR in the Jim Norick Arena and then mingled with the IFR personnel and the contestants during the buckle ceremonies. I finished my trip visiting with family and stopping by the IPRA head quarters. It was incredible to be able to visit so many places with my rodeo sisters and to actively take part in Oklahoma’s rich history!
And let me just say. The food. If anyone follows me on Instagram, you know I’m all about that food. And boy howdy, did they feed us well. Janet Woods and Sherry Smith had us all try hot honey covered crescents at Charleston’s in OKC and I think we all considered the week a success after that meal. No matter who was crowned.
How awesome you got to go on a tour to Shorty’s! They are awesome! What was your goal going into Miss Rodeo USA, besides of course taking home the crown?
In all honesty aside from winning, I went solely for the experience of being one of the top 12 cowgirls in the country during the week of IFR. I’ve known about the Miss Rodeo USA title for a LONG time. I had studied the rules for the pageant a few years ago and considered it an option, but didn’t pursue it because the IPRA doesn’t have rodeos in the PAC NW and I had only ever attended a couple as a spectator. After I buckled at the NPRA pageant, my friend and I were sitting in a hotel room and she gave me “the look”, across a bed and suit case full of queen clothes (queens that travel out of state know exactly the look I’m talking about). It was the “Girl, I have an idea and things are about to get real” look. Next thing I knew, I was 3 months away from trying out for a national title. From the day she had the revelation that I was going to do this to the day the application was due, there was less than 2 weeks. Within 72 hrs of thinking it might be doable, someone approached me with a sponsor title. It was a complete whirl wind. God had a plan and I went with it. His plan ended up being so much better than anything I could have ever come up with on my own.
Photo by Lindsey Wyllie
What were those 3 months like getting ready for the national title? Did you ever feel intimidated because most girls spend a full year preparing for it?
During those 3 months, everything was done with purpose. My mother and I sat down and planned everything out in a notebook with a timeline, and then executed the plan. It wasn’t as stressful as I had anticipated, and I never felt intimidated. The knowledge portion was hard. In the last 5 years I’ve had to study 4 different rodeo association rules. Which can be difficult keeping straight when there are subtle differences in times and fines. However, aside from the rule differences for the test, There really wasn’t too much stress. If we couldn’t find clothes, we made them. Every time, I needed something in order to reach a deadline, I’d say a prayer and, I kid you not, before saying “Amen” I would get a text or a phone call or come across exactly what I was looking for. The preparation experience was surreal. I had so much support from my family and my community. The entire state was ecstatic that we had two girls trying for national titles this year.
That’s great that everything worked out so smoothly for you! I know when I went to Miss Missouri, I only had two months and I was stressed to the max for sure! What do you believe is the most important phase of competition and how do you prepare for it?
When you’re down to the wire, things definitely can be stressful! I’ve been there, but that ties right into what I believe is the most important part of any pageant, or performance based activity. It’s all about the preparation. Make a list of goal and stick to it. So many times girls get overwhelmed by losing or winning or not being enough. As much fun as winning is, that’s not why we do anything in life. It’s about making yourself and those around you better. Find a look that works for you, be consistent with that look, then study everything you can. Life is about studying, practicing, and then performing. So if you need help modeling, find someone to help. If you don’t know the association rules, go find the rules. It’s all about growth and improvement. A lot of girls will find a formula that lets them walk into any title they try out for. That’s great for them, it is! Although, my advice to any girl getting into it or wanting to get more out of queening, is to live in the experience, study everything you can about rodeo and public presentation. The pageant starts before you send in that app. So find your niche, be rodeo’s biggest fan, and make yourself useful. You will win more hearts with kindness and work ethic than you will with fancy boots and expensive makeup. You make it what it is. If you go into it with a goal, and you meet that goal, then you have already won. Rodeo is about being better than you were the last run, and leaving any losses in the arena when you walk out. Rodeo Queening is an event just like the others so remember that you need to practice out of the arena to win in it. And if you crush a goal, then own it and be proud because you just won the pageant!
Since we’ve talked before, I know there’s a special story behind your chaps. What is that story?
Haha oh my chaps. I love them beyond words. The story has actually gotten even more amazing since we last talked!
The gentleman that made them is named Bob Roy. He is an Oregon cowboy who is a revered leather worker in just about anywhere. As long as I can remember I have wanted a pair of chaps made by him. When I realized I could order chaps because I had a rodeo queen title, I had gone through several people trying to get a pair ordered. Do you remember how I said being a queen is a big deal in Oregon? Well, owning a piece of Bob’s leather work is an even bigger deal.
When I went to Miss Rodeo USA, I brought with me two pairs of cuffs. One of the sets he had made for that local court the year I had tried out with the flu. Somehow they had been passed through the queen closets and landed in my mailbox (remember those prayers?)
So of course, I was already excited to have the cuffs. And in my little girl heart, I was happy. So I go through the process of finding a chap maker and as each chap maker got busier and busier, it was getting more difficult to get a custom pair ordered.
One afternoon, I received a call that if I ordered from Bob Roy, I would get some help paying for them (back to that prayer thing I was talking about). So I gave Bob a call and he sat on the phone with me, got a design sketched up and said I’ll have them for you no down payment, I’ll see you in May
(Insert about 15 min after said phone call of me having an absolute fit of shock and excitement and gratitude).
Fast Forward to our conversation of me saying “Hey! Let’s just wait for my chaps to come in before this interview!”
About a week later, I call him to set up a pick up day. He told me that my chaps were going to be ready by the time he said. However, the leather he ordered came in the wrong color twice, so he’d give me a call when everything got sorted out. He calls me back a few days later and says "Okay good news, your chaps are done," So we schedule a time to meet. I get there, he pulls in, I go say hi, and he hands me one of the most gorgeous pair of chaps that I’ve seen in a very long time. And then he asks me if they are good enough (remember that little girl with that dream? Yeah me too). I stood there and he handed me the most perfect pair of chaps with my name on them and asked me if they were good enough because he had finally gotten the leather the day before and finished them about 18 hours before handing them to me. The tooling and stain on them matched the cuffs he had made and the complimenting leather he picked matched the other cuff set that I wore at USA. The second set was made by another Oregon leather worker, Bob DoLittle. My perfect chaps literally matched both sets of cuffs made by Oregon leather-working legends.
I was in absolute shock. That little girl with that dream was standing in front of her leather working icon who was handing her perfection and hoping she liked them.
The entire experience humbled me beyond words. It made me even more grateful for the work of the hands that make this world possible. Every person has a part to play and each just wants to be appreciated and told that what they do matters. It’s why the Code of the West is so important. The guy that sets the ropes in a branding field is just as important to the rancher as the guy that makes the rope. The person that makes the chaps for the cowboys and queens is just as important as the contestants themselves. People need each other and that’s why I love rodeo because the appreciation for that hard work is shown.
I'm so glad we waited to do this interview so I could hear this story. I absolutely love the way life works out sometimes for us. How important is it that we take care of our sponsors and show how much we appreciate them? I know for most titleholders we couldn't do what we do without the sponsors.
Shannon, you just asked about one of my favorite things to talk about! Let me get on my soapbox for a minute. If anyone has heard me in rodeo marketing interviews or discussions before, they’ve probably heard a phrase similar to “Sponsors are the Lifeblood of Professional Rodeo”. And it is so true. Yes, we wouldn’t have a competition without the cowboys and rough stock, but we wouldn’t have professional rodeo without our sponsors. Many people don’t realize how expensive it is to put on a rodeo performance. Everything costs money and everyone wants to get paid. Rodeo is a business. When sponsors donate time, money, or services, it takes some of the stress- of putting the performance on- off the shoulders of the volunteers running our favorite rodeos. Sponsors make the magic happen. They often pay for champion buckles, awards, media coverage, events and activities surrounding rodeos(ie bands, parties, sweepstakes, the VIP tent). Sponsors also help with funds for publicity and bring legitimacy to the rodeo and committee. When people see businesses putting their name on a rodeo, they are more trusting that the rodeo is going to be quality. Because of this support, the relationships we make and maintain with our sponsors is critical! Sponsors are our friends, and can quickly become our family. They wouldn’t be helping if they didn’t want to be involved in your brand and the brand of the organization you represent. This is where a queen(court) can make or break sponsor/rodeo board relationships. The Pendleton Roundup started their queen program as a marketing ploy in 1910. The girls who sold the most tickets- and brought the most publicity to Round-up- became the queen and court. This idea reach Cheyenne, and then it exploded across the country. The rodeo queen, in her essence, is a tool to attract an audience and to help maintain (and develop) sponsor relationships. Maintaining a sponsor relationship is about building a friendship. It’s about doing small things for them. Sending thank you cards is nice, but sometimes there is more you can do. I have a sponsor who donated their facility for an event I was hosting, and all they wanted in return was for me to stop in and say hi once in a while. That relationship is one of my most cherished moments. Another sponsor was starting a new service at their shop, so I shared their information on Facebook and they were so grateful that I was willing to take 15seconds to send business their way. It’s about reciprocity. When people help you, help them back. It’s just nice. As a queen, your sole job, your reason for existence, and the purpose for your title is to build positive branding and PR (this includes sponsors). Girls forget that being a queen is not only a job, it’s a privilege. A rodeo can exist without a queen. But it cannot exist without sponsors. A smart rodeo board will always be more willing to cut a troublesome queen than to ruin a sponsor relationship- it happens all the time. I’ve seen so many rodeos cancel their queen program or new rodeos never start one because of the reputation queens have to damage sponsor relationships. That being said, I’ve seen some incredible queens that have revolutionized their rodeo and court programs because they go the extra mile with their sponsors and with fundraising. It’s about what you make it. A little kindness and positive reciprocity will get you far.
When working with sponsors remember three things:
1. Sponsorships are mutually beneficial relationships.
2. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what you can give.
3. They don’t have to sponsor you- don’t take that for granted. The most important thing you can learn how to do, as a queen, is to work with sponsors and build those relationships! It will not only serve you now, but also later in life.
What a wonderful insight on sponsors from the titleholder side of things. I know I can only preach so much as a director how important sponsors are because not everyone understands how much goes into getting them and keeping them satisfied because you’re right, they don’t have to sponsor us.
I have one last question for you. I’m sure a lot of girls reading this blog have gone through a lot of “losses” in rodeo queen pageant. Even though I don’t ever consider a pageant I didn’t walk away with the title a loss because there’s always something gained from each one. So from coming someone who hasn’t ever held a state or national title, what is one piece of advice you would give to girls who are discouraged after not walking away with the title several times?
My advice to any girl in the rodeo queen world is very simple. “The crown is just a tool that gets you through the gate. What you do with it after that, is up to you.” An epic year of queening is possible with any crown you wear (or don’t). It’s about your mindset. In your head, you are either a queen, or you aren’t. And by queen I don’t mean a girl with the right clothes and the right friends. I mean the hardest worker and kindest person where ever you are. With or without a crown or buckle, you are there to make a difference. The best queens are just nice people. It doesn’t matter if they are in their queen attire or in town getting their blood drawn. They are just nice and friendly and make everyone feel important. They change lives because they are genuine. The person you meet at a basketball game is the same person you see running flags and tacking down for a pickup man. Or sharing cold water with a bull fighter who just got run over. It doesn’t matter what your title is. If you are kind, work hard and are always prepared for opportunities to serve, your year will explode. It’s incredible what a little work ethic and a smile will do to open doors you never knew existed. Being friendly and ambitious can easily take a year of mediocre and turn it into the best queen year your rodeo board has ever had! And you will get so much more out it!
10 key points to remember to help make your year perfect:
1. Never. I repeat: NEVER. Lose your hat in an arena. That hat hits the ground and your head better be in it. Participants are fined if they lose their hats. Queens better set the example. If that means the hat is taped, pinned, hair sprayed, and spirit gummed to your forehead, then make sure you clean the hat band after every ride. But do NOT let that thing fly off. You will set a tone for your year and the cowboys will immediately lose respect for you. I can’t tell you how many cowboys come up to me after rodeos and just shake their head because a queen lost a hat. I’ve had clowns come up to me when I’m working a rodeo and hand me, and the person I’m standing with, queen clothes that he picked up so we can go find the owner. So make sure that hat is a permanent fixture on your person.
2. Your clothes need to fit. If you can’t sew or know someone who does, get yourself a good tailor/seamstress. There is nothing more embarrassing than a wardrobe malfunction during an event. I’ve seen girls split their pants during flybys. Not too tight or too lose, your clothes need to fit and be appropriate for your event.
3. On that note, shapewear is your friend. No matter what size you are, invest in good shapewear and underclothes. No one wants to see panty or bra lines. And shapewear helps smooth everything out. I’m very slight, but the difference when I wear shapewear vs when I don’t is monumental!
4. Make sure your leather is maintained. Check your leather. If it needs fixing go to a saddle repair shop or the maker of your piece. Check the hardware on your tack, make sure it’s clean. Not only does it look good, but keeping it in good condition helps with safety.
5. Pack ahead of time and always have a queen bag ready to go. Take stress away by planning. A little planning goes a long way. If you need snacks, pack them. If you need to do homework, pack it. There is so much stress already, don’t add to it if you can avoid it.
6. Once you leave your staging area, everything stops being about you. Once you step away from that mirror, all you should be doing the rest of the day is maybe a touch up on a break. The second you step onto the rodeo grounds, until you are checked into your next engagement, you are working for the rodeo you attend. They aren’t letting you in for free because you’re cute. You are there to work. And if that means you are mounted the entire day, working a double perf in 105 degree weather, make friends with someone working the ground because you’re going to want a water bottle.
7. Try to avoid petty drama. Or as my incredible mom always says, “don’t be in the thick of thin things”. If you keep your nose clean, it will save you so much unnecessary emotion and will help you keep your head in the game.
8. If you’re in public, don’t get contrary with your advisers. They are there to help things run smoothly. Unless it’s illegal or morally compromising (which most of the time it isn’t), don’t pick a fight with them in public. They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t want to be- it’s a volunteer position. When you have that crown on, you aren’t representing you- you are representing a community tradition. If you pick a fight with the person making your life happen, it not only reflects poorly on you, but also on your board and community. Don’t be that girl. Any issues should be resolved behind the scenes. And I mean behind the scenes. People gossip, advisors talk, older queens who’ve been around, we all get phone calls and texts. If you are at your trailer throwing a hissy fit because your advisor said it’s time to go home but you wanted to be in the halftime show, (or something along those lines) don’t throw a tantrum. Calmly bring up your concern and if she still won’t budge, then give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she has information you don’t. And you don’t know who’s watching. Sponsors are everywhere and your rodeo board knows everything.
9. Always remember that Queening is a privilege. A rodeo can run without a Queen- always be there to help. Don’t get in the way. Know your place in the arena. Know your place behind the chutes. Be a help and not a hinder. These people make their living doing this work. Help them out! It’s always so much more fun when you are making friends because of service!
10. Rodeo is about having fun and helping others have fun! Keep a chipper attitude and kill them with kindness! Be the person people want to be around. You’ll find that when you start having fun, others will see that and want to join in. Life is what you make it. A great year can come from anywhere. If you keep a positive attitude and find good everywhere, you’ll start to see how much the world has to offer. Being a queen with or without your hat on will open more doors than you ever thought possible.
Photo by: Living Irradiance Photography
Thank you Kelsey for chatting with me for a while for this interview! I truly appreciate the tips and advice you have given to girls competing in the rodeo queen industry. I know so many times girls want to give up because they've "lost" too many times, but through your experiences you are inspiration to keep going towards that ultimate goal we have set for ourselves, whether it's becoming Miss Rodeo America or Miss Rodeo USA, or even chasing a career goal. Ladies please take all of this advice to heart. If you have the passion and you love what you're doing, don't give up, you'll get there one day. One thing I have always been told is "it's not about the destination, but the journey getting there."
We wish you the best of luck Kelsey at Miss Rodeo Oregon!
Until next week,
Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant
This week we bring Titleholder Tuesday back to the Show-Me State with this week's guest. From Miss Teen Rodeo Missouri to 1st Runner Up at Miss Rodeo USA, we're talking about April (Brown) Hawley. I've known April since she was Miss Teen Rodeo Missouri in 2006 and she is the prime example of how a rodeo queen should be. April has won many category awards during her queening days as well as the very important horsemanship competition. Keep reading to find out how April prepared for Horsemanship and her other experiences while queening!
How did you get involved in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
I was fortunate to grow up in a family that loved horses. We spent our weekends at play days and would always go to watch the local rodeo when it came to town. My mother, Cindy Brown, held several rodeo queen titles when she was younger, and I grew up playing with her crowns and sashes, dreaming of one day walking in her shoes. We were at the American Royal PRCA Rodeo, when they introduced a “Teen Queen.” I had always dreamed of running for Miss Rodeo Missouri, but had no idea that I could start earlier as a teen! So we immediately began preparing and I competed in my first pageant, Miss Teen Rodeo Missouri 2006, and won. After that I held a title every year till 2015 when I met the love of my life.
Even though you were a teen and didn't compete at Miss Rodeo America what did you learn traveling as Miss Teen Rodeo Missouri versus competing in the Miss Rodeo USA Pageant?
Miss Teen Rodeo Missouri was my very first title, and I learned so much traveling across Missouri and Kansas. I was blessed to be one of the first state teen queens to get to travel outside of my home state, and I met so many great people along the way. Networking is everything. Miss Teen Rodeo Missouri, and other titles, prepared me in so many ways to run for Miss Rodeo USA. From TV and Radio interviews, to Parades, to visiting children’s centers and nursing homes, to working rodeos and signing autographs, I learned how to promote what I loved and be an active part of the greatest show on dirt.
What was your favorite memory of competing in the Miss Rodeo USA Pageant?
My favorite memory is the people I met during the Miss Rodeo USA clinic and pageant. I actually competed three times, winning numerous categories, as well as Second runner up and also first runner up, but none of the awards compare to the friendships that came from that pageant. Even though we are states away, it feels like I gained sisters. Another favorite of mine was Horsemanship. This is my favorite event and the 5 Star Quarter Horses are AMAZING to ride! You really can’t get a bad draw.
What is one piece of advice you learned from your director, Sherrie Norris, as Miss Teen Rodeo Missouri that further helped you when preparing for Miss Rodeo USA?
Sherrie taught me so many things. She helped to perfect my flag carrying, how to work a crowd, both in and out of the arena, she also helped me with working cattle in the arena. But most of all she always wanted us to be ourselves, and to have fun… And I believe that is huge when being a rodeo queen. You can only put on a smile and fake it for so long, but if you are yourself, and genuine, then that is beautiful!
Being a horsemanship winner for Miss Rodeo USA, what advice would you give to girls on how to better prepare for this phase of competition and do you believe horsemanship is one of the more important aspects of rodeo queen pageants?
My biggest piece of advice is to go take a few English lessons… Proper horsemanship never gets old and will never go out of style. Learning to ride correctly will help you in more aspects than just the rodeo queen world. After you have learned proper body position and how to be “soft,” my next advice, is ride everything you can. I firmly believe horsemanship is the most important aspect of a rodeo queen pageant. While personality, knowledge, and speech are very, very important, a rodeo queen spends a lot of her time on horseback, and most of the time not on her own horse. At rodeos I’ve ridden everything from pick-up horses, to roping horses, to barrel horses, to old faithful horses, to 3 year olds that have only had 30 days on them. You never know what is going to be available to you, and knowing how to ride anything, and properly, is huge.
Why did you decide to compete for the title of Miss Rodeo USA?
I met Miss Rodeo USA 2006, Stacey Jo Johnson, while I was Miss Teen Rodeo Missouri and became even more interested in the IPRA and the association. Then in 2009 my mother and I attended the Miss Rodeo USA 2010 pageant as visiting royalty and to watch a friend compete, and there we met Dakota Misseldine, who went on to win Miss Rodeo USA 2010. After meeting several past queens, and being there in person, I just knew I wanted to be a part of that group and wanted to compete for Miss Rodeo USA. After competing the first time, I was hooked. The people, the association, the girls were all amazing and I knew I wanted to go back. And I am so glad I did.
What has life been like since queening and how did being a rodeo queen prepare you for it?
Life has been amazing. I married the man of my dreams in October 2015 and we had our son in December 2016. I’m still involved with horses, just not as much as before. We live on 40 acres in South Western Missouri and I run barrels on my “unicorn” Ruby. She is just one of those one in a million horses that I trust my little guy to ride on, that will go in Halter class if I want, but will also get a check at a jackpot. I currently work for Expedia Group, providing systems support to our hotel partners (no I can’t get anyone hotel discounts, Sorry!). Being a rodeo queen prepared me for a lot in life. It taught me patience, interview skills, public speaking, presentation, but most of all to just be myself and to do what I love.
If you could give one tip or trick to girls who are just starting out in the rodeo queen world, what would it be?
You win some, you lose some, but the biggest success is when you know you did your best. There is always going to be someone that has a better horse than you, better clothes than you, better hair than you, more sponsors than you, a bigger trailer, or a bigger truck… but none of that matters. What matters is that you prepare for the job at hand, because being a rodeo queen IS a JOB! And that when the pageant comes, you do you best. Learn from where you made mistakes, and celebrate your victories. Always have bobby pins and lipstick in your purse, and always, always smile…. Someone is ALWAYS watching.
Time and time again, our titleholders all have one piece of advice in common and that is to stay true to who you are. April's piece of advice is one that I believe every rodeo queen or rodeo queen contestant should read because it's true. There will always be someone who has something better than you, but the materialistic items don't matter when competing. Also, I think many queens and contestants forget that being a rodeo queen is more than carrying flags and signing autographs, but it is a job!
Thank you April for doing this interview with us!
Until next time,
Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant