One thing that I have learned about traveling all the time, is that the views never get old. I am blessed to head in a different direction almost every time that I hit the road. I headed out to Blairsville, Georgia a couple weeks ago. I enjoy seeing the countryside and take in all of God’s beautiful creation! I am so thankful to have the opportunity to travel where I meet many friends for life wherever I go.
During my trip to Blairsville, I passed through the Ocoee River in the Cherokee National Forrest. I winded around mountains, valleys, and scenic routes for what seemed like forever, but had beautiful views every corner! Passing through the Georgia state line, I found my way to the Union County Saddle Club Arena. I arrived just in time to sit in on the saddle club meeting and attend dinner with the crew. Thanks to Art and Debbie Miller for allowing me to stay in their beautiful home during my time in Blairsville. Might I add, it was great going into a home that had dogs! What I miss most about being gone is my four legged friends! The Miller’s had a few sweet dogs for me to visit with, so that was a plus!
Friday I did what I am calling the “normal”, that is visiting sponsors and attending events! Later, it was time for the rodeo production meeting and then everyone’s favorite, RODEO TIME! It was a packed house on Friday and it’s safe to say that everyone had a good time! Friday night was Tough Enough to Wear Pink night and I was excited to finally where my newly designed, Maid of the West shirt! I had the shirt made this year by Maid of the West, in memory of my cousin, Amber, who passed away a little over a year ago to Breast Cancer. It meant a lot to me, to proudly wear my pink ribbon shirt in honor of her!
Saturday morning everyone got up in the morning for a big breakfast with Danny and his crew, plus the saddle club members. I helped with the pancakes and then made a quick trip to the gas station (on a borrowed gator) to pick up peanut butter. Yes, you read that right, I eat peanut butter on my pancakes! It’s just not the same without it! Topped off with syrup and you have got the next best thing to chocolate chip cookies!
I headed off to visit a dealership that was the main sponsor of the rodeo. As soon as I got on my way to there, I received a call from Brunswick, Georgia. It happened to one of the Exchange Club members who showed me around town and took me to the airshow earlier in the year. John and his wife were in town and wanted to meet up. I met them at the dealership and it was great to cross paths again. We took photos, chatted a little bit, and then parted our ways. This is when this year starts coming full circle. When the people I met earlier in the year reconnect and we get to catch up. There are truly so many wonderful people in this year and I have to say, John and Charlene Franklin are one of them!
After the Blairsville rodeo, my next stop was Gray, Tennessee for the rodeo with the Jericho Shriners. I arrived early morning Thursday for a TV interview with Mr. Bud Campbell, potentate of the Jericho Shriners. We promoted the rodeo and headed off to visit sponsors. Here is where I insert a funny story that you are only going to get to read in this blog! Bud and I are at a dealership thanking them and visiting with the people for a little bit. As we are talking, a lady working there offers us both a cookie. As you well know, cookies are my favorite. I said no thank you, but ended up taking one anyways (go figure!) I had two colors of the sugar cookies to choose from, it was either red or blue icing. I purposefully picked the red, thinking I didn’t want blue teeth. Bud and I ate our festive fourth of July cookies and then a gentlemen comes up to ask for some photos outside with a truck. Of course, I say yes! But first, I grabbed my phone to check the reflection of my teeth for the all clear. Yep, everything looks good, no sign of the cookie. I go outside and we probably take 10 or so photos with a few vehicles. Five minutes later, we are done and walk inside to the group of about 5 people all standing together. Some small talk goes on and then the lady that offered me the cookie said, “well honey, they should have told you that you were taking photos before you ate the cookie, your teeth are blue.” I replied, “oh, I don’t think they are, I checked before photos!” We all kind of snickered about it and then it was time for Bud and I to leave. As soon as I get in the truck, I thought maybe I should check my teeth. I mean they couldn’t be blue because I ate a RED cookie. Sure enough, the lady wasn’t joking, I had smurf blue teeth! Yikes!! And all I could think about was those photos weren’t on my camera and I couldn’t delete them! So moral of the story, don’t eat a red icing sugar cookie with blue sprinkles before you have to smile for photos!
The next day we drove around Bristol, Tennessee to various sponsors, radio stations, and news channels for even more marketing opportunities. During our drive, we passed the guitar sign, but had to go back for a photo of course! We also passed the Bristol Motor Speedway, but just to look as we drove by. Along the route, we stopped in the Shriner’s Children Hospital and walked in for a quick visit with any children that might be available. I love to stop into places that those people are not able to get out and make it to the rodeo. Just by one small act of kindness as simple as this, you can never know how much of a difference that you can make in a child or adults life.
During my time in Bristol/Johnson City/Kingsport (I visited these cities multiple times), I learned a lot about Shriners and what all that they do. I also learned with that, there comes a lot of terminology that I had no clue about. They have potentates (the president), names for every official that I can’t recall, and they have “has beens” too. Most importantly, I learned how the money raised not only from the rodeo, bur from other community events, goes to assist children who need transportation to and from the children’s hospital. They have helped in just last year, over 900 families with expenses associated with their children’s medical needs. A big thank you goes out to all the Shriners who work hard year after year to keep children’s hospitals funded with excellent doctors, staff, and state of the art facilities. Our world is a better place thanks to the hard work of the Shriners!
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!
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!