It's week 3 of Titleholder Tuesday for our 2019 edition and we are headed west to the state known for it's potatoes! Not only does this titleholder hold her current state title, but she also placed in the Top 5 for Miss Rodeo USA 2018. Help us welcome, Sara Weekes, Miss Rodeo Idaho 2019!
How did you become involved in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
At 23 years old, with countless AQHA shows behind me, I made a basic error in one of my patterns. In and of itself, that wasn’t such a big deal, but I began to realize that it was partially a symptom of a change and shift in my passions. I knew for certain though that I had one more goal I did not want to pass up on: Miss Rodeo Idaho. I began researching and networking to find out what I needed to do to achieve that goal. My first title with a women’s rodeo association came later that year, and I began competing in rodeo events as well. 3 years after that rookie error, I stand here as Miss Rodeo Idaho 2019 – and am excited even more about growing my talents as a breakaway roper!
Why did you decide to run for Miss Rodeo Idaho?
After my passions began to shift away from AQHA showing, I found myself in conversation with a former Miss Rodeo Idaho. She asked me about my title goals, and I began talking about some of the local organizations. She asked, “What about Miss Rodeo Idaho?” and it gave me the spark to consider something I’d always dreamed about a little more seriously. Our conversation gave me the belief that ANYONE should be able to run for a state title
What has been your favorite appearance so far this year?
My favorite appearance this year has been State Title Holder Week in Florida. State Rodeo Queens are invited down to the sunny shores for a mix of hard work and fun. We were able to visit 14 different grade schools and educate their students on the 7 showcase rodeo events, as well as the local rodeo taking place that weekend. Some of our recreational activities included hog hunting, blueberry picking, and time at the beach. Conducted near the beginning of the calendar year, it was a great way to get a taste of what being a titleholder would be like the rest of the year: hard days, long hours, but a ton of fun.
How would it feel to be the first Miss Rodeo America crowned from Idaho since 1999?
Being crowned Miss Rodeo America would give me an overwhelming sense of honor and pride. There is so much sacrifice and dedication that goes into being the state queen and preparing for the national title competition – not only for me personally, but for my amazing board as well. Being able to represent Idaho and the Miss Rodeo Idaho board on the national stage would be an indescribable experience.
Do you feel the experience you received at Miss Rodeo USA will help you better prepare for competing at Miss Rodeo America? Do you feel like it will help you knowing what a national pageant setting is like?
The only thing that can really prepare you for competing at a pageant, is competing at a pageant! Practice certainly helps, but the Miss Rodeo USA taught me so much through the process of appearing on a stage in front of judges and interacting through speeches and interviews. The Miss Rodeo USA pageant and Miss Rodeo America pageant share several similarities, such as bringing together contestants from all around the country, demonstrating horsemanship skills, and participating in interviews. I’m certain that experience helped better prepare me for Miss Rodeo America.
What appearance are you looking forward to the most this year?
The Snake River Stampede is what I look forward to the most this year. It’s my home rodeo – I have been attending this rodeo since I was a little girl, and was even fortunate enough to be on the Night Light Team, the Snake River Stampeders. To be a part of this production as Miss Rodeo Idaho is truly a dream come true, and in my own back yard!
What is something you've already learned while being Miss Rodeo Idaho that you didn't know before you held the title?
One of the most important life lessons that I’ve learned is that while you may have a plan, you need to be prepared when things don’t go as you expected. In the rodeo industry, things aren’t always set in stone, and you have to be flexible while traveling. During one trip, I flew in to Oklahoma City a day and a half early for an event due to a scheduling error. Instead of becoming upset or wasting that time, I took the opportunity to visit downtown Oklahoma City as well as the memorial and museum for the Oklahoma City bombing. If things had gone as planned, I would have missed out on the breathtaking opportunity to learn about such an historic event.
You attended the Miss Rodeo America Pageant last year as Miss Rodeo Idaho Lady-In-Waiting. Do you think you got an inside look at the pageant that will better help you prepare? What was that experience like?
I highly recommend attending a pageant as a guest before you compete in that pageant. Being able to attend the Miss Rodeo America pageant as a Lady-In-Waiting gave me the chance to see what each of the different settings and scenarios might be like when I compete. I also had the opportunity to meet most of the other state queens that I would be sharing the next year with. It was an absolutely priceless experience, and I was able to cheer on Miss Rodeo Idaho compete!
What is your biggest piece of advice for someone just starting out in the rodeo queen industry?
The biggest piece of advice I have to someone just beginning their time in the rodeo queen industry is to study, study, and more studying! I know that most people say that, but it’s more than just studying rodeo knowledge. You also need to educate yourself on speaking patterns, modeling, current events, and even your role models and heroes. I also firmly recommend you attend clinics. These are a great place to ask questions, understand the “why” behind what we do, and get to know your fellow sash sisters while immersing yourself in the world of rodeo. Please feel free to reach out to any State Queen throughout the year – we are more than happy to help. All of us were in your shoes at one point in our journey, and we want to ensure the future of rodeo.
Thank you Sara for taking the extra time out of your busy schedule to interview with us! We are excited to continue watching your journey towards the Miss Rodeo America Pageant!
Until next time,
Miss ORA Pageant
Photos Courtesy of Sara Weekes
This week we are sticking to our neighboring states and traveling south to the Natural State! Our special guest titleholder this week holds a special place in our hearts here at the Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant as she was our 2019 pageant Special Guest and Emcee. That's right we're talking about Bayleigh Warren, Miss Rodeo Arkansas 2018!
How did you become involved in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
I became involved with rodeo and pageants because of my mom. My mom was Miss Rodeo New Mexico 1979. As a little girl, I saw all of her pictures and clothes and asked many questions. Also, she directed the queen pageant at the Will Rogers Stampede Rodeo in Claremore, Oklahoma & the flashy clothes definitely made me want to be a part. Competing in rodeo also came from mom. She competed in high school, college and professionally. I have always had a competitive nature and a love for horses, which continues to fuel my desire.
Why did you decide to run for Miss Rodeo Arkansas?
My decision to run for Miss Rodeo Arkansas came easily. I had an amazing scholarship at a college in Arkansas and quickly took advantage of that. It was by far the best decision I have ever made! I have had a phenomenal year, I have been blessed with a great board through the pageant and memories and friends to last me a lifetime!
What was your most memorable experience during your reign as Miss Rodeo Arkansas?
I have so many! The most exhilarating moment was making my fly-by at Cheyenne Frontier Days! Each of my experiences were spent with each of the state queens who have become some of my best friends through this experience!
If you could sum up your entire experience as Miss Rodeo Arkansas into three words, what would they be?
Grateful, Memorable & Unique
What was the inspiration behind your wardrobe that you wore to Miss Rodeo America and what was your favorite piece?
My wardrobe was inspired by diamonds! Arkansas is the only state in the country that has a diamond mine where you are able to come mine and keep the diamonds that you find. With this, I wanted to do something different. Each year, the young woman representing Arkansas uses some sort of a Razorback theme at MRA. While I love the Hogs, the diamond mine was something I wanted to showcase! My favorite piece was either my fur coat I wore to the back number ceremony or my beautiful white dress I wore to coronation! Both of these, among the majority of my clothes, were made by Sherry Smith!
What was your favorite part of competing at the Miss Rodeo America Pageant?
The Miss Rodeo America pageant was the week of a lifetime! As crazy as it sounds, my favorite part was having the time to spend with each of the titleholders one final time before our year was over. For those that don't know, we aren't able to have our phones during the pageant. It was somewhat nice! We were able to soak up that time and really absorb the joys of each moment. That is something that doesn't happen often in the technologically advanced world we live in!
If you had the chance to compete again, would you and is there anything you would do differently?
I absolutely would not do anything differently. I knew the material, I shocked myself on my knowledge, I rode well, I spoke well and the modeling was great! I knew I studied a large amount, but I shocked myself on things I was able to recall during the moment! I competed very well and I stayed true to myself. I have always said that there is no way I can pretend to be who I am and I wanted to just be me and have fun! I definitely did that!
For girls that are preparing for national pageants, most of them aren't sure what to expect when they get there or how to study for everything. What advice would you give to girls getting ready to compete at the next level?
What I would say to girls competing at national levels learning what to study is learn it in small portions. My mom has always told me, "You can only eat an elephant one piece at a time." Do not try to cram material! Study for months or years leading up to the pageant, ask questions to those who know the material or those involved in the sport. You will be surprised the amount of insight you gain!
What does life look like for you after the crown?
Life after the crown is exciting! I am finishing college this semester! I will graduate with a Corporate Communication degree. I am also in real estate school, which I am ever so excited about! I have gone back to working my younger horses and in due time, I'll go back to competing, but my degree and career are of the upmost importance! I love being able to spend time with my family and friends and being able to talk about my experiences this last year with them is something we all love!
What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to the next girl who is crowned Miss Rodeo Arkansas?
To the next girl crowned as Miss Rodeo Arkansas, have fun! Do not take one moment for granted, because this year will fly by! Most importantly, be yourself! Don't try to be something you aren't, I promise, people will love you for it!
I have personally loved getting to know Bayleigh during her year as Miss Rodeo Arkansas and having her as a guest at our pageant. We know the future is bright for you and we can't wait to see what it holds for you!
Until next week,
Miss ORA Pageant
Photos Courtesy of Bayleigh Warren Facebook
This week we are bringing it back home to the Show-Me State to talk to another Missouri titleholder! Please help us welcome Kaela (Hotlmeyer) Ryan, Miss Rodeo Missouri 2006 as our special guest this week!! Kaela talks about her year as Miss Rodeo Missouri, how the industry has changed since her reign, and how being a rodeo queen prepared her for life after the crown!
How did you get involved in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
I became involved with the pageant because of my youngest brother Jack. Jack was born with Down Syndrome. We fought as a family to make sure that my brother would receive the same outlook on life as we did. With Jack dealing with Down Syndrome, he lagged in achieving the milestones other children surpassed. The doctors told us he would not be able to walk or talk as a normal child. As a family we began researching and located therapeutic riding. I have was heavily involved in the APHA and 4H, throughout my years in school and still currently showed in the APHA Association. It was crazy to think what we had been heavily involved in my whole life was also going to be Jack's secret to success. Living in a small area the closest one was over 45 mins away. With much due diligence we opened the Jackson Academy. We had many children in our area that could and did benefit from the riding program, but not many had an opportunity to utilize due to the costs of the lessons. At which point we decided to make it as free as possible. It is amazing being from a small community how much you pull together. We hosted a benefit rodeo each year to cover the cost of supplies and feed for the horses in the program, which ultimately made the costs for the rider nothing. This program brought me great joy to see the children overcome the trials and tribulations that they had been dealt with in life. Although, we wanted to involve the community more, so we added a rodeo pageant and planned to send the girls to state to represent our small community. With a mission in mind to not only support the greatest sport of all time I wanted to promote the awareness of disabilities and the benefits horses have to offer. So I ran for the title of Miss Rodeo Rhineland. During this time I took my knowledge of my background and invested it in my community to further flourish the dreams of younger girls and riders.
Why did you decide to compete for Miss Rodeo Missouri?
After conquering my first sought achievement, I didn't want to just stop the awareness and passion of the sport in just my community. I wanted to strive for more. There were so many out there that did not know the benefits horses could have in one person's life. I hit the books to continue to grow my knowledge of the PRCA to prepare me for the next hill I had to climb.
What was your favorite experience of being Miss Rodeo Missouri?
During my reign of Miss Rodeo Missouri, I had so many memorable experiences. It's not just about sitting in a saddle at a rodeo and waiving, it is much more. During the rodeo I was able to help assist with rounding cattle, running flags, and being part of skits, but most of all I had the opportunity to post our flag proudly. With this came the opportunity to travel throughout our great Show-Me State and meet many amazing, wonderful individuals. I had the opportunity to represent the sport of Rodeo during the Derby Days at the therapeutic center just outside of Kansas City with the KC Wolf, and attend the horse show at Cedar Creek Therapeutic Center in Columbia. My reign also allowed me to attend functions at Fort Leonardwood where I had the opportunity to meet Keith Urban and many outstanding Soldiers that risk their life every day for our freedom. I went to the Capitol and meet many of our Senators and was introduced onto the house floor as a guest during FFA week. But my duty and role did not just remain in Missouri. I had the amazing opportunity to meet the other state queens with traveling from San Antonio, Texas to Logandale, Nevada gaining friendships that will last a lifetime. With stops in between at Cheyenne, Wyoming for Grand Daddy of them all, partaking in interviews with ESPN and RFD-TV, these are just a few of the activities I experienced. I would love to write about each one. Every stop there was a new gained memory that I will forever cherish.
How did being Miss Rodeo Missouri and competing for Miss Rodeo America prepare you for life after the crown?
My reign as Miss Rodeo Missouri prepared me in many ways which words cannot express. I gained friendships that last a lifetime and memories that will never be forgotten. But most of all, it has given me the true meaning of the self-confidence that you can do anything for which you set in your mind and heart. Opportunities can truly be limitless. I believe without my reign, I would not be who I am today. It has made me strive for self-achievement so I will never settle.
What is one piece of advice your director, Sherrie Norris, gave you during your reign that you still remember to this day?
Sherrie and I went through a lot; she opened her home to me and I felt like family, she became my second mother and the glue that held it all together. She did an amazing job of making sure I was where I needed to be, when I needed to be there. Many times I traveled most of the week. For instance, one week we went from Cabool to Odessa and then shortly after I grabbed a plane for a rodeo out-of-state. There is no way I would have been able to do any of it without her. As we approached the Miss Rodeo America Pageant travel, preparation went into many sleepless nights. The biggest piece of advice she had given to me is: don't stop and continue to believe in yourself because you can achieve anything you want to set your mind and heart to achieve. People are not who define you, you are what defines you.
How do you feel the rodeo industry has changed since you were Miss Rodeo Missouri in 2006?
Since my reign as Miss Rodeo Missouri the biggest change is watching all of the new and amazing talent that has taken to this wonderful sport. Which I think is great. Since 2006, this sport continues to grow and so does the knowledge of those outside the sport.
What was the hardest part of preparing for the Miss Rodeo America Pageant?
The hardest part for me in preparing was the uncertainty of what they would ask. Without having a strong background in pageantry I utilized the information from my director and other queens. Also leading up to the pageant I knew that we would draw 2 horses, they would not be the same horse and that one pattern would be drawn and the other I would have to draw. We did not have the opportunity to work with this horse beforehand, so I tried to never take my own horse to a rodeo in order to make a point to use whatever the contractor would let me borrow. This broadened my ability to jump-on and learn in the flash. With the questions, I made sure that I studied and studied some more. The questions were not just pertaining to the rodeo association but also current events that were ongoing during this time. I made it my mission to do the best to represent our State well.
What was your goal going into the Miss Rodeo America Pageant?
My main goal as Miss Rodeo Missouri was to promote the sport of rodeo, promote therapeutic riding and enjoy the amazing opportunity I had been given.
If you could give just one tip or trick to someone who is just starting out in the rodeo queen world, what would it be?
You do not have to have a rodeo background to be able to compete. You just need to share the love of animals, agriculture and western tradition. Another tip I would give is do not let the world define you be YOURSELF, allow your fire and passion to shine brightly. So many times during my reign I had heard "I am from a small town, I will never win" or "I don't think I will learn enough to be able to do it." Girls, I am from a small town and had the same thoughts, but I set out to make my mark on the map, I strongly encourage you to do the same. Do not feel your role is just to sit and look the part, be the part. It is a once in a life-time opportunity and don't let it slip through your fingers. Never have doubt that you can't achieve it, because you can. I can't stress enough - I highly encourage all young women to compete in the rodeo pageantry. I wish I would have started sooner. The other piece, I would say, you will learn these items become your best friend; can of starch, make-up, hairspray, and carrying an on-the-road bag, plus investing in a good under eye cream because sleep is one thing you can do when your reign is over. Best of luck to all of you, you all are amazing in your own way.
Have you ever thought you couldn't be a rodeo queen because you didn't have a rodeo background? Well you can! Just because you don't come from that background doesn't mean you can't do it and Kaela is the perfect example of that. She had a drive and desire to be Miss Rodeo Missouri and that's exactly what she did. Kaela was a very successful Miss Rodeo Missouri and spent her year promoting the sport of rodeo and the PRCA to the best of her abilities and she came from a small town with no rodeo background. You can do it too!
Thank you Kaela for doing this interview with us! I of course loved getting to catch up with you some and even hear about your year again.
Until next week,
Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant
Photos Courtesy of Kaela Ryan
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
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
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
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
This first generation cowgirl proves you don't have to come from a rodeo background to have big dreams in the rodeo world. Please help us welcome two time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Flag Girl and your 2018 Miss Rodeo Utah, Carly Peercy as this week's featured titleholder!!
How did you get started in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
I ran for my very first princess title in 2008, lets just say I had no idea what I was doing but I loved every minute of it. During High School I was on the Kearns High Drill Team which consumed most of my time, so I decided to concentrate on dancing and being a state officer during those years. Once I graduated from High School in 2012 I competed for my very first PRCA queen title, there was 4 girls competing and unfortunately I was the girl that walked away without getting my named called to be apart of their court. This was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, it fueled my fire and started a burning passion inside me. I wanted to go back the following year and win the queen title. So that’s just what I did, in 2013 I held the West Jordan Western Stampede Rodeo Queen title, and I was officially hooked! Since than I have held 11 other rodeo queen titles including my current title Miss Rodeo Utah 2018.
Why did you decide to run for Miss Rodeo Utah?
Something unique about me is I am a first generation cowgirl so I have wanted to be an example that big dreams are attainable. I am also very goal orientated so after continuously setting goals to compete at different local rodeo queen pageants, I came to a realization that I needed to set my goals high if I wanted to follow my dreams of becoming Miss Rodeo Utah. It took me three years to walk away with the prestigious title of Miss Rodeo Utah, but the important part was I never gave up going after my dreams. Now its my hope to make an impact, and be an example that ALL dreams can come to reality with faith, determination and hard work.
What has been your most memorable appearance so far as Miss Rodeo Utah?
This most memorable appearance that’s standing out to me at the moment, happened just this past weekend. I was able to be a part of an event with a nonprofit organization called the Mascot Miracles Foundation. This foundation provides lasting memories and moments of happiness for young warriors fighting unthinkable battles. They help children who have serious illness through professional, college and corporate mascots; by creating and attending events. I was fortunate enough to be a mentor to these heroes and spend a day with them putting on an exceptional rodeo during the Pony Express Days in Eagle Mountain, Utah. I can honestly say my heart has never felt so full of happiness and love.
What are you most looking forward to during the rest of your reign?
Definitely making an impact in my state. This last weekend kicked off the first rodeo of summer here in Utah and now I am going strong every weekend attending rodeos, events and parades until the middle of August. I will travel from the north, east, south and west of Utah these next few months and I couldn’t be more exited to pack up my Dodge Ram pick up truck and hit the rodeo trail with my friends and family.
As you are preparing to compete for Miss Rodeo America in December, what has been the biggest challenge for you and how did you overcome it?
I’ll admit I am a huge over thinker. I sometimes stress about the smallest things that no one can change. This year I have been focusing on myself, reminding myself to let things go that I can’t control, always to live in the moment and most importantly remember who I am. I have told myself from the beginning no matter what happens I will stay true to myself, believe in myself and never give up on my dreams.
You got to be a flag girl at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for 2017, what was this experience like?
If I could describe it in one word it would be AMAZING! This past year during the 2017 WNFR was my second year that I got to carry sponsor flags at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Being selected to ride with 21 other incredible, talented riders, and being a part of this selected group of women is unexplainable.
I do have to giggle when I hear girls say that carrying flags at the WNFR would be so glamorous and fun, don’t get me wrong it’s a blast but it’s also a lot more than just carrying flags during a rodeo. You haven’t seen the definition of perfect until you spend a day practicing with us. We practice until we are in sync, talk about late nights practices after the rodeo and early mornings practices as well.
When you compete for Miss Rodeo America, besides bringing the crown back to Utah, what is your goal?
My goal going into Miss Rodeo America is to have no regrets, I am going to go to America as ready as I can be. No matter if I win or lose I want to look back and say I did my very best and whatever happens it was meant to happen. God is good, and he always has a plan for us.
If there is one piece of advice you could give to every girl starting out in the rodeo queen industry, what would it be?
Always stay true to you, no matter what!! You are special in your own unique way, don’t let anyone change you. Once you find your inspiration, use it to make a difference.
What do you believe is the most important phase of competition and how do you prepare for it?
As a Rodeo Queen it’s our job to be the public relations and ambassador of the sport of rodeo, especially as the first lady of professional rodeo! This comes from putting in hours upon hours of time and energy into studying all different rodeo and agricultural topics.
Every portion of the Miss Rodeo America pageant the contestants will be answering questions in their interviews, while answering impromptu questions and when they give their extemporaneous speech. Staying up to date on current events, PRCA rules, equine related knowledge, personality questions are all extremely important if you want to be successful at the Miss Rodeo America pageant.
Like I said studying is a little tricky because there is so much to study but I have learned that having a studying routine is very important. First of all to keep up on current events, I read TheSkimm daily and I watch the news nightly. To help me study all the different topics I will take flash cards with me everywhere I go, on my down time I will ask myself questions, answer them back or write them down and then while I am driving I will have someone send me a speech topic and I will create a speech out of it and say it out loud. I will record myself then go back and listen and critique them later.
Long explanation short, you have to put the work and effort in if you want to be successful not only at the Miss Rodeo America pageant, but in everyday life.
Thank you so much for this opportunity!
Carly Peercy, the 2018 Miss Rodeo Utah
Thank you Carly so much for sharing your journey with us! You're a reminder that you don't have to come from a certain background to obtain certain dreams!
We can't wait to continue following your journey as Miss Rodeo Utah this year!
Until next time,
Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant
Photos courtesy of: Carly Peercy
This week's titleholder is making a difference in her community through her platform and service projects she has been promoting. Please help us welcome Susan Rhodes, Miss Mid-South Rodeo 2018!
Photo by: Sherry Smith Photography
For those who aren't familiar with the Miss Mid-South Rodeo Pageant, could you tell us a little bit about it?
The Mid-South Rodeo Queen pageant is a multi-state pageant with divisions from Sweetheart to Miss. The pageant will either be held in conjunction with the Rodeo of the Mid-South in Southaven, MS or the Liberty Bowl Rodeo in Memphis, TN (It's still up in the air). In one day, contestants complete an interview, modeling, impromptu question, short speech, and horsemanship with an interview in the arena followed by coronation that night. It is a jam packed day but so much fun!
How did you get your start in rodeo and rodeo queen pageants?
I have always been a horse girl, however I didn't come from a horse family. Since I got my first horse when I was 12, I have dabbled in so many disciplines and while I don't rodeo myself--though I am trying to squeeze in time to learn how to rope--I have so much respect and appreciation for the sport of rodeo. It's a unique combination of agriculture, ranching, tradition, and sport that you can't see anywhere else. As for rodeo queen pageants, it honestly all started in 2010 when a friend's sister asked me to consider running for the title she directed--Miss Lincoln Riding Club Rodeo. I agreed and started preparing for the rodeo. A week before the pageant, I actually broke my collarbone in a riding fall, but I competed anyway and was runner up!
Following your social media I saw you've started "In Memory Monday". What is it about and why did you decide to start it?
In Memory Monday is all about recognizing the cowboys and cowgirls from across the sport of rodeo who have taken their own life. I started this as part of my platform, Tough Enough to Talk, which emphasizes the importance of talking for mental and emotional health. My dad took his own life in 2010, and I have seen many other friends and family struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and more. By talking about how we feel and our mental health, we help others through their struggles and break down the stigmas surrounding mental health. In Memory Monday is just one piece of my platform, but arguably one of the most important. Cowboys and cowgirls are supposed to be tough, but we can't expect them to be superhuman in dealing with the struggles caused by mental and emotional health. By highlighting these athletes, I hope to show that the rodeo community does care about these things enough to talk about them and encourage others to seek help.
Do you think it is important to have platforms or service projects that they do throughout their reigns?
I believe a platform or service project is very important for a contestant or titleholder to have. If you have a title, you should take advantage of the position you have to make a difference, whether that be large or small. Going into the Miss Mid-South Rodeo pageant, I already knew what my platform was going to be and since then I have worked on developing it further. Having a strong platform helps you stand out as a contestant and then as a titleholder because then you're more than a girl who loves rodeo and looking great. You also care about the world you live in and how you affect others.
Why did you decide to compete for Miss Mid-South Rodeo?
Having just graduated from college last spring, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish now that I had time. When I went out of state for school, I put my dream of a crown and the honor to represent rodeo to rest, or so I thought. I realized that I wasn't too old to chase that dream again, so I looked for a pageant that looked fun, low stress, and manageable with a full time job. Once I found the Mid-South Rodeo pageant, I knew that was the one!
What's next on your rodeo queen journey? Do you plan to go on to the state or national level of competition?
I actually just competed for the Miss Rodeo Arkansas title this past March, and am strongly considering competing again next year before I age out. For now though, I'm just focusing on enjoying my title as Miss Mid-South Rodeo and being the best titleholder I can be.
What is one piece of advice you would give to girls that are just starting out in the rodeo queen industry?
Don't be afraid to be different. Be true to yourself! You don't have to run barrels every weekend or come from a ranching family to be a great rodeo queen. The most important thing is a love for rodeo, agriculture, and the western lifestyle, and a willingness to learn the skills needed to be a great titleholder.
To be a successful titleholder you don't have to come from a rodeo background and you don't have to hold a state or national title either. Successful titleholders come from all walks of life and from different pageant levels in the industry. So if you're thinking about competing and win a title, be the best titleholder you can possibly be. Create a platform or service project during your year and make a difference in your community!
Thank you Susan for taking the time out of your schedule to do this interview with us! We wish you the best during the rest of your reign and we can't wait to follow it on social media!
If your interested in following Susan's journey, her Facebook Page is Miss Mid-South Rodeo 2017-2018!
Signing off until next week,
Miss Ozark Rodeo Association Pageant
Photos courtesy of: Susan Rhodes