January 14th, 2024 is a day I will never forget. So many thoughts raced through my head as I heard my name over the loudspeakers, saw the formers rush forward, heard the crowd cheer, and knelt down as the Black Hills Gold Diggers crown was placed on my hat to be worn by its second Queen ever.
It is still unreal that, “Kaelanne Quinonez is your Miss Rodeo USA 2024” was announced as I took my first lap around the Lazy E Arena adorned in a new crown, sash, belt buckle, and chaps. My cheeks hurt so much from smiling and I knew this year would be a special one. The year of preparation, the incredible support from my family and friends, and giving it my all the week of the pageant led to this moment. I knew as soon as my name was called that I was ready to serve the Miss Rodeo USA organization, the IPRA, and to be the best ambassador for rodeo and western I could be.
So what did that year, and those character defining moments during the pageant look like?
The year of preparation took an enormous amount of studying in all aspects and as someone who just finished their Master’s degree, it took that much studying and more. Equine science, rodeo history, hot topics in agriculture, world events, and rodeo rules are just a few subjects I needed to know inside and out. You have to know not only the facts, but how to answer them, and what’s even harder, how to answer the questions when you have no idea what the answer is. So what else was there to study? Just horsemanship, modeling, hair, makeup, and interview skills. After all of that, you get less than 168 hours to prove you know your stuff to the judges, fans, and yourself.
Every year you hear contestants say ‘it was a tough year’ and ‘I wouldn’t want to be in the judges’ shoes’ and this year was no exception. I was fortunate enough to know half the girls competing at this year's competition, and it WAS a tough competition! Each girl brought their own strengths and sparkle to the stage; I’m humbled and blessed to have gotten to know each of them very well. The week of the pageant will have you form strong bonds, made only stronger by the late night bus conversations, early morning hair sessions, and random giggle hysteria brought on by lack of sleep.
At the end of that week, after awards were handed out, pictures were taken, hands were frozen (yes, we had an ice storm the last couple days of the pageant and the wind chill was making the temps in the negatives!), I don’t think I can say I was tired. Instead, I felt empowered, motivated, and ready. Promoting the western way of life, being a role model for the younger generation, and celebrating the roots of the American west and rodeo have always been a passion of mine. This year as Miss Rodeo USA 2024, I feel blessed to have an outlet and opportunity to do all these things and more for our community.
This year has already been off to a fantastic start, first with taking sponsor photos with Sherry Smith, then on to planning rodeos and coronation celebrations. By the looks of my calendar I will be on the road for nearly the whole year, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Looking forward to meeting each and every one of you rodeo fans this year!
Miss Rodeo USA 2024