American Heroes and Freedom
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!
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo was next on my schedule! I was really excited about attending not just because it’s close to home, but because my half-roomie from the pageant was going to be there! If you didn’t already know, during mid-week of the pageant, they pulled the ol’ room switch-a-roo competition! We had 30 minutes to completely change rooms and roommates! Don’t worry, all the contestants completed this task in 20 minutes and 2 seconds! With that being said, my new roommate was Mary Ashley! She was the Miss Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo Queen and this is her rodeo that I was able to attend! Of course, when I arrived there was a lot of catching up to do! It was wonderful to see her and get to hangout all weekend while we both worked!
Thursday I felt honored to be a part of the largest special needs rodeo that I have ever seen! There were over 1,200 special friends that attended this huge event! Even though it was rather a brisk morning in Decatur, that didn’t stop the kids from wandering outside to all the booths and fun activities that were planned for them! Mary Ashley and I got to interact with the kids and sign autographs. After lunch was held for everyone, there was a mini rodeo performance for all that attended!
Friday morning we awoke at 3 am to get ready for our TV interview! It is a good thing I am a morning person, or making this appearance would not have been easy! We advertised for the rodeo and then left to start on sponsor visits! A special thanks goes to Whinny Wisdom for their sponsorship of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo! It was great stopping by the store to check out all of the adorable items!
Rodeo night on Friday was so much fun running flags with Mary Ashley! We had our horses shiny and glittered for the night! Thank you to Amber with Gypsy Tails for providing me an awesome set of Red, White, and Blue to add to my horse, Doc! They looked so pretty and are simple to put in your horses mane and tail! Saturday morning we went to a community event for children in a neighboring county. We spent a few hours signing autographs, taking photos, and handing out free tickets to the rodeo.
This is the really fun part next – I got to go on a helicopter ride! This was not an ordinary helicopter ride either! I set in the co-pilots seat of the Cullman Police Helicopter with my curls blowing in the wind (because there was no doors) while listening to the Eagles through my headset. We ventured over to a lake and dipped down to right above the water and literally raced around the curves like we were on a race track! It was the neatest adventure ever! The best part is when we passed fishermen on the water as we got the most unusual looks! As we were racing around the turns, I told the pilot,“ I see why you love your job! This is about as fun as flying gets!” I know that not every day is sunshine and daisies as a police officer, but flying always makes it better! Thank you to all of those that work hard every day to make sure we are safe! And I almost forgot to mention that I GOT TO FLY THE HELICOPTER! For only 30 seconds, but it was my first time on the controls! It takes a lot of talent and skill to be able to maneuver a helicopter where you want, and I for sure learned just that! According to the pilot, it is more about pressure than actual movement of your hand on the controls. Another amazing memory added to my year!
Rodeo night number two was even better than the first with a larger crowd! It was the last time that I will ever run flags with Mary Ashley as the Miss Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo Queen, so it was bittersweet! I watched her take the last ride for her reign during the rodeo. Mary Ashley – you have done a wonderful job during your title and I am so glad I got to meet you and spend time with you at the pageant! I am looking forward to more memories with you in the future! The new queen was crowned and we finished the rodeo strong! Thank you to the ladies of the Morgan County Queen Committee for all the work that they do and that they did for me while I was in town! Along with the Morgan County Sherriff, Anna Franklin for all that she does for the community with the rodeo!
The next weekend adventure brought me to the hills and hollers of Eastern Kentucky! I traveled five hours across the state to the beautiful mountains where Hindman is located. Most people have no clue where Hindman is, but when you say Hazard, Kentucky it gets their attention! It was wonderful to be able to stay in my home state with all the UK Wildcat Fans! Go Cats! The main event located in this county is the Knott County Trail Ride. Horses and riders come from all over to take part in this week long event! In fact, when I arrived in town, there were already campers in line for the ride that was two weeks away! This is the first year that Knott County is having a rodeo and it’s in conjunction with their annual trail ride. Thank you to the Knott County Tourism for bringing me into their side of the state to help promote the rodeo! I visited six schools in two days, thanked many sponsors of the rodeo, and visited the nursing home.
Looking back, my favorite part of my trip to Eastern Kentucky was my visit with the residents of the nursing home. When I arrived, the staff informed me that because I was coming to visit, they had “rodeo day” with the residents! Everyone was all dressed accordingly with hats, bandannas, and western attire! One particular gentleman was dressed just like he walked out of a western tv set! He had his hat on, vest, super fancy boots, and walked with a cane. As he walked by he told me he fell off his horse which was the reason for the cane! Clearly, he wanted to make us all laugh! I loved visiting with everyone and talking about rodeo and what Miss Rodeo USA is. I took pictures and signed autographs for every resident that was in the dining hall! By attending this event, I know how much of a difference it makes in the lives of others who can’t physically get out to the appearances where I would be. It was amazing to brighten their day and I truly enjoyed being a part of it!
My last thank you goes to Danny Laferty with Knott County Tourism for being my tour guide for the two days that I was there! Thanks for all that you do for the county and community! And thank you to Hindman Settlement School for allowing me to stay at your settlement! On the way out of Knott County, I grabbed some sweet strawberries to bring home to my mom! It’s the little things in life that make others the happiest! Hope everyone had a Happy Easter with family and friends!
Rodeo at the Beach!
The past two weeks have been much different than the last two! Previously, I mentioned that I had been preparing to head to the Dallas Market Center in Texas! But before we get to that event, lets talk about Bowie, Texas! I got to spend a night in Decatur Texas with a previous Miss Rodeo USA and her family, Katie Woods-Boggeman. I met her super sweet in-laws and enjoyed waking up to the view of cattle right outside my window. I then headed to Bowie, Texas to tour American Hat Company, an amazing hat sponsor of Miss Rodeo USA! It was quite the experience getting to watch a hat made from start to finish! Most of the machines used are very old, but have worked for many years. Each hat is hand crafted and made with so much talent. After getting to see how both straw and felt hats are made, I truly understand the quality of product that American Hat Company produces. I love my American hat and recommend to everyone to purchase the best hat you will ever own from them! My next stop with sponsor Janet Woods, was to visit a luncheon restaurant in downtown Bowie. The waitress informed us that we needed to visit the Bowie Knife! After a few minutes of searching for it, we found the statue and of course had to take a photo with it!
Dallas Market was my next big adventure in Texas and I loved it! If you have never been to the market center, it is really something to see! There are 15 floors of businesses throughout the center, but our main focus was with the western trade market. Most Miss Rodeo USA Sponsors have booths at this place and it was such a pleasure meeting them! Amber with Gypsy Tails was absolutely wonderful and so fun to be around! I would like to thank her for all that she does! Amber teamed up with Tammy at Double T Sales and helped showcase some of the newest styles of the season! I can’t wait to show you all what they have sponsored! I would like to welcome a few new sponsors as well! Minxx, Miss Macie Boots, and Annette’s Touch of Class are just a few names that I will be showcasing their amazing lines! Most importantly, I would like to thank each and every sponsor for donating their time and products to help this organization grow. Without their support, the association would not be where it is today!
Next stop, Brunswick, Georgia for the Rodeo at the Beach! I left directly out of DFW and flew into Jacksonville, Florida around 1 am Sunday morning. Just in time to make it to the airshow taking place in Brunswick! This airshow featured the Blue Angels, Aeroshell Acrobatic Team, the Raptor, Wild Blue, and many other top of the line acts! I enjoyed the day walking around visiting different booths and advertising for the rodeo coming up! I ran into many old military birds and then some modern airplanes, like President Trumps jet! Thank you to John and Charlene Franklin for being my tour guides for the day!
During the week, I visited many sponsors for the rodeo and met even more wonderful people! I learned that while in South Georgia, they are known for their sand gnats and sweet shrimp, two of which I had no idea about! It didn’t take me long to meet the state bird.. the evil sand gnat! I quickly replaced my bottle of hairspray for bugspray in my purse! As far as the seafood goes, I hear everyone loves it there, except maybe the Kentucky girl. The Exchange club made sure that I did not go home without trying at least one of their famous shrimp. So I did, and with the help of honey mustard, it was okay!
The Exchange Club of Brunswick was a very interesting organization to learn about. It was wonderful to hear that they support so many local charities and help to provide to the community in everyway possible. Last year alone, the club provided over 90 bicycles to the local children to have for Christmas. Its organizations like these that I feel blessed to have met the whole club! They also worked very hard to put on such a great rodeo! Thanks to Hedrick Rodeo Company for making sure that Rodeo at the Beach was a success!
As for the down time I had during my stay in Brunswick, I always found something to do! Everyone kept telling me that I needed to visit Jekyll Island! Because I am a Kentucky girl and there are no beaches or palm trees in my neck of the woods, I jumped right on to finding the island! I even found a few sand dollars while walking on the beach! While on Jekyll Island I wanted to go find frozen yogurt. One of the guys in the club had said there was a place located in Brunswick. I start driving to find it and before I know it, I have discovered another island, Saint Simons! I visited the downtown area and indeed located the frozen yogurt! I took a walk on the pier to enjoy the sunset on the island.
After the rodeo was over and my time in Brunswick had come to an end, I rode back to Jacksonville, Florida to catch my plane into Nashville late Sunday night. I am getting used to spending a lot of time of time in airports and the fun that comes with meeting so many new people. As I walk to my gate, I get a lot of “congratulations!” and “did you just come from a pageant?” A new trend that happens everytime I am at an airport is when strangers come up to me and ask, “Oh! Are you getting married?!” When I answer “no, I am Miss Rodeo USA” I see their eyes start to read the crown. No, I am not a bachelorette, but indeed travel with a crown and sash to promote the western image and the IPRA.
On the subject of airport stories, I have to tell you my most recent conversation at DFW airport. While I have been waiting for close to three hours for my flight time, I had my backpack and hat can sitting next to me while working on social media. I had been in the same spot with several other people for at least an hour. Finally, I guess the curiosity got the best of a few people and this gentleman came over to ask what was in the black box. Of course, I had to have a little fun and played a guessing game with the guy on what he thought was in the box. I noticed other people near me all started to pay attention because apparently they too secretly wanted to know what was in the box. The guy gave a few answers and then said, “well it just can’t be a hat that fits in that box.” He indeed was correct and it was entertaining to see what answers that they came up with!
I left my last blog off with a hint about a really neat bag made by the talented, Sherry Smith! I mentioned that I had told Sherry that I really wanted something so that I could take my cheesesticks, water, and other cold goods with me while on the road. She pulled through and made the coolest cooler pocket you have ever seen inside of my purse! I know, that’s definitely an unusual request, but it is working perfectly for me!
Overall, the last two weeks I have made so many new memories and look forward to what is to come! There is seriously never a dull moment and that’s what I love about this life! The places I will go and opportunities that are placed in front of me will forever be remembered by this year in my life. Thanks again to all of my sponsors that work hard to make this year possible for me!
Miss Rodeo USA
Follow the adventures of Miss Rodeo USA 2017 Brittany Howard as she travels the country representing the IPRA. Check back often for updates and new blogs!