I arrived Wednesday night July 26th, to my host family at Double R Farms in Huntsville, Arkansas. I met the wonderful family and settled into my “home away from home.” Thursday morning I kicked off rodeo week with several sponsor visits and radio interviews. I toured every corner of Huntsville multiple times and then we ventured over to Springdale for a few sponsor visits. From car dealerships, banks, to feed stores, we stopped in to say our thanks to the sponsors!
During our sponsor visits, we made time to shop at Marble Gypsy, a western boutique. Of course, there were so many adorable things that I could add to my wardrobe there. It was so nice of the owner to sponsor me a beautiful wild rag! After our visit in the store, it was time for kid’s night at the rodeo grounds. The community had many booths set up for the kids, including inflatables, face painting, games, pony rides, and so much more. I had a blast with the kids as I found the bouncy horse that was going to be used during the rodeo. Kids climbed on and we took pictures and signed autographs.
For this rodeo, the committee was raising money for ALS. During my time there, I learned of their previous rodeo director that had passed away due to ALS a few years ago. The committee had it in their heart to give to the ALS Foundation and they did so with a bouncy horse competition that took place during the rodeo. There were people nominated to ride and buckets set around at different businesses in Huntsville. The top 8 people with the most money collected were selected to race. By Thursday, at the conclusion of kid’s night, a total of $2,600 was raised for ALS!! Also, at kid’s night, I had the honor of meeting Steve, a Veteran who is living with ALS. Steve wasn’t able to talk, but could show some communication. He wanted a photo with us and the bouncy horse! That is just what we made happen!
The crowd was amazing on Friday night and we kicked off with a beautiful flag presentation to honor the veterans. There is literally nothing like flying in the arena carrying the American Flag. It gives me chill bumps every time and is such an honor! Not to mention that I had the best horse, Willie the Wonder horse to carry me around the arena! Thanks Hampton Rodeo Company for bringing him! The competition was tough in every event, including the bouncy horse race. The riders got on their “horse” and were informed that there were no rules. You could push, shove, rope, or even use a hotshot on your competitors. Just kidding, they all played nice and just rolled in the dirt at least once per race!
Saturday brought the annual rodeo parade in downtown Hunstville. I was privileged to lead the parade on Willie with the American Flag. I bet there were over 100 horses that participated in the parade. After that, I had some time to hangout with my host family. I went to visit their turkey houses and see the bluff nearby. The bluff was really cool and Danny told me of the cave that went underneath part of it. We then stopped by to see their turkey houses. They had just got birds in and were 21 days old when I got to see them.
Saturday night performance was really good as well! They held the finals for the bouncy horse race for ALS and the finals for mutton busting. One thing that I thought was great about this rodeo was the fact that every kid that came through to ride a sheep for the mutton busting, had help from 3 different guys and were told how to ride correctly. I thought this small gesture was wonderful and will help start the youngsters off the right way. The winners were given buckles and left with a huge smile on their face.
Sunday morning I left bright and early to do a photoshoot with Sherry Smith, our official Miss Rodeo USA Photographer. We met at a location in Springdale, Arkansas and started dragging everything out of my car so that we could see what all we had to work with. The street became my closet for a few hours. After we had all the fun we could stand, I headed back to my host family’s house to hangout for the rest of the afternoon. We ended up going to Beaver Lake to have fun on the dock, paddleboard, and cruise around on the boat. Turns out, it takes a lot of talent to balance on the paddleboard, but I sure had lots of fun! We cruised around on the beautiful lake and I enjoyed seeing the mountains that surround it. I watched brave souls jump off the bluff and people out enjoying the Sunday afternoon. I am very thankful to have met this wonderful family who I will always remember!
Although we took a lot of pictures with Sherry, we still had more to go! Back to the photo grind we went! This time we went to the farm for photos! Let me tell you, you never know where you are going to end up when you have a photo shoot with Sherry! She works so hard to find the best place to shoot. That could be stranded on a tree trunk, standing in the creek, climbing in a tree, and so many other places! Not going to lie though, it is very hard to cross tree roots over a creek in heels! She helped me to my spot, abandoned me to take the photos, and I am glad she came back to help me out! I have to give a shout out to Bethani for letting me use Reuben for the photo shoot. The bay roan gelding has been in the MRUSA photos for a few years now and I think he is officially a part of the gang!
I took a day trip to Amarillo, Texas to visit Bustamante Boots, a wonderful sponsor of Miss Rodeo USA. Vidal was glad that I stopped in and it was great to see his boot shop! I met the shop cat, a black cat that had to be wherever you stood! Vidal showed me that if he moved from one counter to the next, the cat was right behind! I looked at all of the beautiful boots displayed on the wall, along with my autograph sheet that I had sent in the mail! I was glad to see that it made it on the wall with a few more past MRUSA’s. We spent the rest of the time designing my first ever custom pair of boots! I cannot wait to see what he comes up with! I traveled 600 miles for a roundtrip, but it was totally worth it to see the beautiful views on the drive and see the craftsmanship of Bustamante Boots!
Next stop was the Yukon FFA Rodeo in Oklahoma! It was great to see a few familiar rodeo faces, including the announcer, the contractor, and the judges. At this point in the year, I am halfway through and it is wonderful to see the people that I have gotten to work with before, hence the term “rodeo family”. I borrowed one of the judge’s horses to carry the flag for grand entry. Afterwards, I had a great time signing autographs, meeting kids, and taking photos. I ventured out into the arena to help with mutton bustin’ and then I hear Goobie, the clown, over the speaker yell to the crowd, “who would like to see Queenie here ride a sheep?” The crowd of course loved that idea, thank goodness the next kid comes rolling out of the bucking chute to claim his win!
As you can tell, it has been a fun past two weeks! I have covered 1,600 miles in less than two weeks and many states. And the rodeo road trippin’ is still going! My schedule for the next two is going to be just as fun!