Shady Dale, Georgia is a very small town where 5 roads intersect, and that’s about it. But who would know that a small town like Shady Dale would hold one of the largest outdoor IPRA rodeos! The contestants and fans sure do because everyone in the surrounding towns came out to see the rodeo! For the last two weeks I have been burning up the rodeo road traveling from one state to another, but that’s what it is all about, making it to rodeos and representing the IPRA.
I am sure you picked up on how small the town of Shady Dale is, but for such a little area, there sure was a lot going on during rodeo week. I arrived and started visiting sponsors first thing, promoted the rodeo through radio interviews, and made appearances at special events. I went to Monticello for a farmer’s market on the square and then attended the Shady Dale festival, which included a parade! Along with Southern Rodeo Company, I trailed along in the parade on a beautiful bay roan horse.
Rodeo performance nights were both so fun! The drill team did a beautiful flag presentation and I was honored to carry the American flag. The arena was super muddy the first night as it downpoured the day before, but don’t worry, that didn’t stop the contestants for giving it their all! Mud and all, the rodeo was held and the calf scramble was pretty funny to watch! You could see kids running and then losing their shoes in the mud. Some actually never found their shoes!
I go to many rodeos over the course of the year and most have a lot in common. But, Shady Dale proved to be different because they offered watermelon AND brownies at their concession stand! I didn’t understand why they didn’t sell a whole pan of brownies instead of individual packs! I ate my share and took a few for the road of course! Overall, I had a blast in Shady Dale and will remember the small town in Georgia!
I left the blazing heat and humidity of Georgia and my next stop was in Ozark, Arkansas. My drive was filled with beautiful views of the mountains and sunny weather. I visited many sponsors during my time in Ozark and met the Hampton’s with Hampton Rodeo Company. I did a really fun radio interview in Ozark, but it was a little different from the rest. The radio host made a reference to Arkansas sports, and of course, I am a rodeo queen and am no way interested in any sports, but I do love the Kentucky Wildcats! Go Cats! Being from Kentucky, I have to bleed blue, I just choose to wear the color blue more than attend games! Anyways, the host picked on the wildcats and we sure had a fun time during our interview!
One evening I visited the local farm to art festival in downtown Ozark. On the square you could find several local vendors with fresh farm produce, homemade sweets, or boutique items. The committee had a table set up for autographs at the square for me. I sat there a while and kept hearing people say they were going to get hot tamales. Apparently, they were the best in town and always sell out. Since I had never tried a tamale, I figured that I would go get one. To my surprise, I couldn’t just buy one, I had to buy a dozen! I bought my dozen and took them back to my table where I had my caramel frappe handy if I didn’t like the tamale. Micki, the pageant director for the NFC queens, made sure to laugh at my faces with my first experience with the hot tamales! It wasn’t what I thought it was and after waiting a little bit, I decided to sell my tamales to a friend who was sad that the lady didn’t have any more tamales! I think it was a win win situation! So I tried my first tamale, and won’t forget that moment at the square in Ozark!
Friday night performance of the rodeo kicked off with some pre-rodeo fun of mutton busting. The kids gave it their all and had one heck of a time in the arena! I did too cheering for the kids and helping out. The rodeo was great with a wonderful crowd, many rodeo sponsors present, and cowboys and cowgirls doing their best!
Saturday brought another parade! Two parades in two weeks! Then it was time for the last night of the North Franklin County Rodeo and the crowning of the new NFC rodeo queens! It is always so exciting to be a part of the crowning moments! The crew in Ozark work so hard to put together a wonderful rodeo and queen pageant year round. It’s great to see the end result during the rodeo! Overall, I met many wonderful people during my time in Arkansas and will be back again later in the year!
Time has slowed down just long enough for me to catch up on some “homework” and then get back on the rodeo road! A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to represent the IPRA at the Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo in Athens, Alabama! I ventured down south a day early to meet with the talented Jack at Southern Exposure Photography. Jack was the photographer that captured my headshots that I used entering the Miss Rodeo USA pageant this year. It was a privilege to meet up with him again to take current Miss Rodeo USA Photos! Kelsey, the makeup and hair artist, fixed me up and we had a really fun afternoon in the studio! Many sponsored items were displayed in the photo shoot, including Miss Macie Boots, Rhinestone Lipgloss, Stylish Designs, Norton’s Jewelry, Red Bluff Buckles, and Archer Banners. A big thank you goes to Jack for so kindly taking time out of his busy schedule to do a studio shoot with me!
Friday morning brought such an exciting event, the special needs rodeo held at the Limestone County Sheriff’s Rodeo arena! Over 600 kids and adults enjoyed a fun day of participating in rodeo activities! Everyone stayed busy with pony rides, wagon rides, mechanical bull rides, the petting zoo, roping, and karaoke entertainment! I had such a wonderful time talking to the kids all day! There are so many special friends in the world that really enjoy wonderful events like these just for them!
The rain held off for the rodeo on Friday night and the crowd sure didn’t want to miss it! The bleachers were packed and the rodeo kicked off! Thank you to Sheriff Mike Blakely for letting me ride Debbie’s horse, Pegasus! Saturday brought the annual pageant luncheon downtown and this is the event that no one wants to miss! With an Indian theme to follow for the decorations, the event was beautiful! Dream catchers, teepees, and other tribal themed décor filled the room and was stunning! But the pageant contestants were even more beautiful! I had the opportunity to help with program along with Mackenzie Harrold, Miss Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo Queen 2016. All of the contestants did a wonderful job! Saturday evening brought lots of rain and put a little damper on the last performance. But that didn’t stop us from an evening of rodeo! Contestants competed in mud and the new queens were crowned.
Another successful rodeo was in the books and homeward bound I went. Through my few days at home, I had the opportunity to speak at our local Lions Club meeting. It felt great to be home and spread my message of staying focused with members of my community. At the same time, it was odd when I say I am from Slaughters and people actually know where that is! It’s the little things in life that mean the most! Now, I want to back track a little bit to tell the story of the beautiful chaps that I wore for the first time in Alabama.
As soon as it was confirmed that Lazy P Creations was making my personal chaps, I couldn’t wait to figure out what I wanted to be displayed on them! Sara was so excited and of course, eagerly asked me what my ideas were. I had seriously no clue. I thought, “do I go the path of patriotic, or do something totally different?” I thought for at least a couple weeks and one day the idea just hit me! Being the first cowgirl from Kentucky in the pageants 51 year history, I had to bring Kentucky into my chaps. And what better way to do just that with the theme of Run for the Roses! Kentucky Derby is what most people think of when they hear that you are from the Bluegrass State. When I started talking roses on the chaps to Sara, she was instantly intrigued! Sara used to work at a flower shop and loved the idea! She is the reason that my chaps were brought to life! With her expertise, she helped me pick the colors that go with the roses and then designed the horseshoes on the side. I wanted to have yet another symbol of Kentucky on my chaps, so Sara put on the corner the logo for Kentucky. It looks like a horse head and mane flowing in the wind, but stands for “unbridled spirit.”
I can proudly say that Sara did a phenomenal job on my chaps and they turned out amazing! But we both couldn’t have done it without staying focused! I have found that my platform of “staying focused on the ride” has helped in all of my travels prior to Miss Rodeo USA, and during my year as well. If you don’t stay focus on the goals in your life, you can’t achieve them. Working as a team with Sara and staying connected allowed us both to stay focused and accomplish the goal: a pair of beautifully made “Run for the Roses” themed chaps!
When I received the box containing the chaps, I was like a little kid in a candy store! I was so excited to open the box and finally see them! But you know what was more important that was placed on the inside of the box? A little note with a picture of DJ, Sara’s daughter. The note told me that a piece of her daughter was in each pair of chaps that she creates and that a special angel would be riding with me each time I wore the chaps. It brought tears to my eyes, but now I am even more proud to be wearing my “run for the roses” chaps in memory of a special little girl! Follow along on my journey as DJ and I travel the country on the back of a horse representing the IPRA!
Staying up all night several years ago used to be something that wasn't much of a problem. I used to study all night in college, sleep maybe an hour and then go start my day. I know why that part of my life was important back then! The past few weeks have taken me back to the days where I was so busy with whatever life threw at me. In case you haven't figured it out, I haven't slept a lot to lately! But, that's okay because I have been having fun traveling from one end of the United States to the other!
Two weeks ago I worked a rodeo in Evans, GA and then got an hour of sleep and headed to Atlanta. I drove around for a good 45 minutes trying to find my way to the right parking, then I finally made it to the terminal to catch my flight to Oklahoma. After arriving, I caught my first Uber to Norman, OK. Coming from a small town in Kentucky, Uber isn't very popular there. My driver dropped me off to meet Melanie, a hair sponsor of Miss Rodeo USA. I was so excited to meet Melanie and get my hair done while we became friends! Melanie did a wonderful job and made my hair look like new again!! I highly recommend her to anyone that is in the area!
After my hair appointment, Allie, a member of the Pauls Valley Rotary Club picked me up and took me to our next destination. It was nice to be in Oklahoma where my director, pageant director, and clinic director are located! I spent the week with the rotary club promoting Thunder in the Valley, a bull riding event. I completed 10 school visits during the week, visited a veterans center, attended the rotary meeting, toured Field's Pies, tried my first Arbuckle Fried Pies, and toured the Cultural Center. How could I forget to mention that Allie taught me how to dance one night at a local center. Once a week members met for a full two hours of country dancing. I of course, can not dance to save my life. But don't worry, Allie made sure I knew how to dance! In fact, at our visit of the famous Arbuckle Fried Pies, we were waiting on our order and I'm standing there and Allie starts teaching me the basic moves to the two step. I definitely wasn't prepared to dance in the middle of the store! However, I learned a few steps and then enjoyed my fried apple pie!
On Wednesday, May 3rd, was an exciting day for me! Not only did I get to spend the week in Oklahoma, but I spent my one and only 25th birthday as Miss Rodeo USA with a few of the rotary members. We all had dinner complete with a birthday slice of cheesecake with a wonderful battery operated candle (courtesy of Allie!) I arrived back to my "home" for the week with our pageant director to chocolate cake, flowers, and balloons! Thanks to everyone that made my day special!
There were many sponsor visits in between all the other events I took part in. I really enjoy being a part of the community in the different towns that I visit. It's great to see how the rodeo, or in this case, bull riding, impacts the community. I love to get the kids involved and mutton busting was a great activity available for them! Thunder in the Valley had a 2 go round competition with the winner receiving $200! I can imagine that the 5 -7 year old kid that won must have been super excited!
During my time in Paul's Valley, I had time to stop by and visit Norton's Jewelry. It was so nice to meet the Norton's, a long time sponsor of a diamond horse shoe ring for Miss Rodeo USA! The couple was so sweet and I enjoyed the surprise visit, and of course the diamond ring! Another local sponsor, 5 Star Quarter Horses, provided me with a top of the line horse to carry the American flag on Saturday night. It was great to meet up with Faith and Patrick and their family! I haven't seen them since the pageant in January, so it was wonderful to spend the evening with them! I can't thank them enough for providing me a beautiful horse! If you're ever in the area, I recommend stopping by to check out all the great horses they have!
Once again after the Thunder in the Valley event, I slept close to two hours and was up and ready to fly out of Oklahoma City Airport. I finally made it back to Kentucky later on that day and couldn't wait to see my dogs! I had a few days at home before I flew out to Las Vegas! I have never been to Las Vegas and was so excited to travel west and see the country! I also couldn't wait to meet Judy and Terry Wright for a photo shoot! But before I made it out to the photo shoot, my mom and I took a tour downtown on Las Vegas Blvd. There was so much to see but we made it to the Venetian, Caesar’s Palace, The Mirage, and MGM. We took a short tour of the wildlife center which included watching the dolphins play underwater and have a training session with their individual trainers. We then moved on to viewing the tigers. It was a neat experience for an animal lover like me! We walked for what seemed like forever and made it to the David Copperfield show at MGM. This was a magic show that was unlike anything else that I have ever seen! He made motorcycles, cars, and spaceships appear from out of nowhere! Not to mention the paper rose he made out of a tissue and then turned into a real rose! However he works his magic, I'm not certain, but I do know his show was very cool and fun! After the show was over, we couldn't leave without visiting the Hershey place nearby! You already know I love cookies, so I found the perfect one! A chocolate chip cookie with peanut butter buttercream icing and a Reese on top! A perfect ending to a long day of traveling and then walking 10 miles!
Saturday brought the day of the photo shoot with the Wright's! We spent a few hours with makeup and hair and then visited Lake Las Vegas for a fun afternoon of photos! Miss Macie boots is a sponsor that I was excited to include in the shoot as well! I can't wait to share with you all the great photos that they produce! I know they put a lot of hard work and effort into each and every photo shoot! It was a fun evening and I'm so thankful I was able to come to Vegas for this opportunity!
We made it back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep before mom and I left at 3:30am for the airport. As I write this, I am waiting for my flight to take me to Nashville, Tn and then to drive home to Kentucky! It's also Mother's Day and it wonderful that I was able to spend a weekend with my mom in Vegas! I'm thankful to have such a supportive and awesome Mom who is always there for me! Thanks mom for all that you do!
Statesboro, Georgia was my destination for the week following Easter. I had been hearing for a few weeks before I made it to South Georgia that the Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo was definitely one for the books! I spent the week with many new friends taking turns driving to the next visit. We had a full schedule, but managed to have lots of fun! School visits are always such a fun part of my day and I truly enjoy educating the students about the sport of rodeo. I appeared at several after school programs throughout the week. I spent a few early mornings with radio interviews and community organizations, including the Rotary Club and Kiwanis Luncheon. It was an honor to speak at both events and give thanks to all the many sponsors that support the rodeo.
One of the highlights of my week was meeting Freedom, the Bald Eagle at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on Georgia Sothern’s Campus! Meeting Freedom has been a Miss Rodeo USA tradition for the past several years and I was so excited to continue the trend! Freedom’s handler, Steve, took time to educate Bill, Ashlee, Lisa, and I on mannerisms associated with Freedom and insights into her daily life. Freedom was found with a beak beyond repair at a very young age. She was not able to be released into the wild, but don’t worry, she lives the life that all Bald Eagles dream of, with Steve that is. As soon as Steve walks into Freedom’s sight, she lets us all know that she knows who he is. Steve demonstrated putting on Freedom’s “hood” that goes over her eyes so that she can calmly be outside her enclosure. As soon as Freedom was positioned over my right shoulder, the hood was taken off and we took amazing photos that I will never forget!
Freedom takes flight at the University’s Football games each season. She flies from the top of the stadium down to Steve every time! Although I wish I could have watched her at a game, just petting her was pretty cool! During my time at the wildlife center, I walked around to visit the other animals that are being rehabilitated and met another Eagle! With my career as a Veterinary Technologist, I generally love all animals, except a few. We walked inside the nature center for Steve to show us more animals. Next thing I know, there is an albino corn snake hanging around my neck and it is all I can do to not freak out about it! The snake wrapped around my banner and by this point, I decided it was time for the snake to return to its tank! We all walk into another locked room, which I thought, “wonder what’s in here?” We found a hissing cockroach, bearded dragon, and a 115lb Burmese Python. Clearly, I know why the room was locked! Steve was really disappointed that he didn’t have enough staff to get the python out. I was okay with that. Adventures at the Wildlife Center came to an end as we invited Steve to the rodeo.
After long days of sponsor visits and photos, I did have the opportunity to ride with a Kiwanian member at a local stable. Evermore farms invited me to come out and have horse therapy with them! Although I’m used to riding western, I tried Hunter Jumper for the first time and absolutely had a blast! I learned how to jump and LOVED it! Thank you to Wendy for teaching me the basics of jumping!
Rodeo time neared as we worked hard throughout the week with promotions. As projected, the rodeo was a big success in the community and the stands were packed both nights! On Thursday, I met a precious family that would be coming to take part in the rodeo on Saturday night. Sweet Sweeden and Irelynn, two young girls from the area that were so excited to go to the rodeo! Both girls rode with me in a sponsored J.C. Lewis Pickup Truck Saturday night to bring awareness to Irelynn’s blood disorder. The 7 year old adorable little girl has a form of anemia where she has to have a blood transfusion every week to live. If you met Irelynn in person, you would never know that she has this disease because she loves life and now loves rodeo!
What I really like about traveling around and meeting so many new people and organizations, is the amount of community involvement that they work so hard to achieve. Each organization uses profits from the rodeos to go back into the local charities to benefit the people of the community. The Kiwanis Club does just that and uses all of its proceeds to benefit others!
Sunday I got to help the stock contractor, Danny, move stock to the next rodeo. I helped in moving the 10 bulls down the road. I really enjoyed the day spent feeding, hauling, and helping out with whatever needed to be done! Monday was spent similar as we finished moving all the stock to Evans, Georgia.
Tuesday was back to work with David and Wendy Speight to promote the American Hero Pro Rodeo! We worked hard all week to get the word out and visit as many schools and sponsors as possible. This rodeo was put on by the nurses at the Burn Unit and benefitted the residents of the Ronald McDonald House. I went on a tour of the Ronald McDonald House and learned that everything they do has volunteers or has been donated. It’s great to have visited an organization that helps many families of children with long term illnesses. One of the best parts of the house was a secret room that the tour guide let us see. They say as each child walks into their facilities, they open this room full of toys and they get to pick one. I know that simple gesture will light up a child’s world!
I have a tradition that I have carried on so far throughout my travels as Miss Rodeo USA. It seems everywhere that I go, I find an adventurous activity to get involved in! During my stay with Wendy and David, we went down to the pond to shoot beavers! It was also a chance for me to shoot an AR15 for the first time! I hit the beaver house, but did not even see a single beaver! Oh well, I still had fun in the woods of Georgia! I also had the opportunity to go on motorcycle ride to an event to honor a fallen police officer. Two wheels are definitely different than four legs, but it was cool to do something different to honor a former community member.
Rodeo nights at the Columbia County Fairgrounds proved to be very successful! The opening ceremony was held to honor the heroes of the community. The American Legion riders presented the colors while respect was paid to EMS workers, law enforcement, and armed forces. Kids enjoyed the activities in the Kid Tent and contestants gave their best to the crowd in Evans. It sure was a busy two weeks, but I wouldn’t trade it to do anything else! I’m off to the next adventure in Oklahoma!