During my drive all across the United States, I pass through many towns that our wonderful sponsors are located in. Okmulgee, Oklahoma is the home of The Eye Center. I stopped by for a sponsor visit and a check up on my eyes in the beginning of the week. I met Dr. Ward and learned of his history in the equine industry. It was great getting to know the real people behind the sponsorship! He checked out my eyes in their state of the art facility, and found that I needed glasses for at night. I used to wear contacts/glasses for many years of my life, but I was thankful to have had Lasik eye surgery 3 years ago. Although that fixed 99% of the problem, night vision tends to be a struggle for those that have had the corrective surgery. So I joined the club and am back to wearing glasses!
My next stop was in Pawnee, Oklahoma! I have heard so many wonderful things about Pawnee and how their rodeo carries such great history with it. I arrived into Pawnee and started the day with check-in for the queen contestants. I met the lovely ladies and then we all moved to Camp Crossway, a church camp where we made our home for the week. When the sun went down, I headed to the kids rodeo. When I drove up, I was surprised by the amount of cars lining the arena and the large amount of people present. It was only Tuesday of rodeo week, but man, was the crowd ready! The kids rodeo was an awesome event that let kids ride sheep, calves, and steers. There were two rounds in each event and the amount of talent that the kids brought was top class! I helped hand out prize money and the buckles to the winners and watched them walk away with smiles on their faces!
Wednesday brought the interview portion of the pageant along with sponsor visits around Pawnee. We loaded up and headed to Ranch Burger, a local restaurant and sponsor of the Pawnee Bill Memorial Rodeo. A few more visits around town for sponsors and then back to the rodeo grounds for the Ranch Rodeo. To many this may surprise you, but I have never seen a ranch rodeo and I for sure didn’t want to miss this one!
Next up was the speech and style portion of the pageant in Teralton, Oklahoma. I had the opportunity to emcee the event for the contestants modeling, speech, and impromptu judging categories. I loved getting to see the girls beautiful outfits and stories behind them! The evening brought the first performance of the rodeo. We had a beautiful flag presentation and started off with queen laps by all the contestants and then visiting rodeo royalty. I led the grand entry with the American flag with well over 100 contestants behind me. The opening ceremony was beautiful with honoring veterans and the military. The first performance went great with all the standard events plus wild cow milking, the wild horse race, and the ring of fear.
More sponsor visits were in the schedule for Friday and Mock Brothers Saddlery was on the list. When I first walked in, I saw the huge inventory of Ariat clothing and boots. I was impressed with all the merchandise that they carried and noticed how many of the things that I wear everyday were Ariat! This store happened to be one that my good friend, Dakota, takes care of! It didn’t take me long to see all the hard work that she puts into her customers.
During my trip in Stillwater, I passed through Oklahoma State University’s campus. I lucked up and got a spur of the moment tour with one of the ag students there. I toured the popular spots on campus including The Union, Theta Pond, the nooks, and the prestigious water fountain in front of the library that is dyed orange for homecoming. The nook is a hangout/reading place outdoors that looks like a net and a cool place to be! During my walk around campus, I got to see the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Of course, this always interests me and I was able to take a tour! I met Dr. Burba, a sweet professor and equine surgeon. We shared common ground in that he also attended school in Kentucky! He took me to see the anesthesia induction room, exotic room, small animal ER, Large Animal treatment and surgery rooms and so much more! I met Dark Vader, a rare chicken that is black in color and has black bones! I also saw a 20 month old kangaroo that had orthopedic surgery! One of the doctors that was giving me a tour of the exotics also showed me a baby wallaby!
Another part of my tour included the Large Animal facilities. I met a few of the permanent residents, including Daisy, a Jersey cow with a rumen fistula! This is something that I learned about in college and it was awesome that I actually got to see it! I could go on and on about all the awesome things that I saw at the teaching hospital, but just know that if you are ever in the area, you should definitely stop by and see the facilities!
The weekend had rolled around and it was time for one of the top 5 IPRA rodeos to take place in Pawnee, Oklahoma. It was a three day performance with many of the top cowboys and cowgirls competing. I carried the American flag, did queen laps, and signed autographs for several kids. I also had a great time getting to visit with the queen contestants the entire time. There was quite a bit of rain on Saturday, but that didn’t stop the crowd from coming! The stands were packed all three nights and now I know why the Pawnee Bill Memorial Rodeo is one of the top 5 in the IPRA!
I headed home from my three weeks of adventures in Oklahoma to my old Kentucky home. Fortunately, my route passed right through Sikeston, Missouri. Of course, that’s the home of throwed rolls at Lamberts! My family and a few friends flew into the local airport and we all had lunch together. It was a great day to see friends, eat good food, and then drive the rest of the way home.
My next adventure was something that I thought would seem like forever to roll around, but it sure didn’t. It was time for the Miss Sunbelt Rodeo Queen Pageant! My mom and I headed to down to South Georgia to help decorate and do last minute things. We had a total of 15 girls competing for the titles on Saturday. It was a fun and very hot day (but who would expect anything else while in south Georgia!) At the end of the day, I can say that all the girls did a wonderful job and it was time to crown the new winners. Before we started the crowning, myself and the current queens wanted to present the pageant director, Cindy Wynn, with her gifts. Cindy was given a name tag from Red Bluff Buckles with the Sunbelt Ag Expo logo on it. She loved it and it turned out beautiful! I can’t thank Red Bluff enough for putting together this beautiful piece and being a wonderful sponsor of Miss Rodeo USA.
Before I read the names of the winners, I also wanted to share to the family and friends in the room, how much it meant to me to represent Sunbelt for the few short months that I did. Last year, not only did I win a crown, buckle, sash, and other gifts, but I gained a Georgia family. I gained a supportive committee and friends that I was so happy to see this past weekend! It wasn’t goodbye, but see you later! “Now, what you all have been waiting for...” I had always wanted to say that and finally had my chance as I read the names of winners and crowned the lovely ladies. I wanted to say congratulations to all the winners and to everyone that competed. I consider every girl a winner because they all have worked hard and stayed focused!
Here is where the story gets interesting. We didn’t finish up with the pageant till about 11pm. By the time I made it to the Wheeler’s house it was 12:30. I had about two hours of sleep and then left at 2:45 in the morning to beat the Eclipse traffic. The town where I am from is the spot where totality would be experienced the longest at 2 minutes and 40 ½ seconds. The influx of people was expected to be around 100,000 added to our town of 20,000. Hopkinsville, KY was the main tourist spot and of course, that’s where my route to home took me through.
8.21.17 a date to be remembered with the Total Solar Eclipse! You know me, I had to go to where all the action was predicted in Hopkinsville to view the eclipse. In fact, the neighboring towns had all advised business to close due to the high volumes of traffic expected. The stores were left with empty shelves where the bread, milk, and eggs reside. Camping essentials were placed up front and heavily stocked for all the tourists that might have forgotten something. I just wanted to make sure that I had cheese sticks in the fridge. My family volunteered to help with the air traffic crowd that was expected to arrive at the Hopkinsville airport. I was up bright and early to help my dad conduct a safety meeting for the 150+ reserved aircraft flying in that day.
The craziness began when the planes started to flood in. I helped wherever I could either with parking airplanes, answering questions, and I even learned how to take fuel payments. Planes were parked on the taxiways in the grass and wherever they could fit. Some people even flew in the day before and camped underneath their wings in tents! The area began to look a lot like Oshkosh, home of the world’s largest air show! A few well known individuals flew into the airport including the Lieutenant Governor and the Kentucky Governor, Mr. Matt Bevin. I was able to meet the Governor and get a few photos. I also met people from Italy, Connecticut, New York, and many other states. Somehow I found a monkey to say hi too. I am not even kidding; someone flew in with a cute little monkey on a flight in a backpack!
When it became time for the eclipse to start, the crowd gathered up and down the taxiways for the viewing party. When it became a total eclipse, the crowd went wild! Everybody was clapping, whistling, and snapping photos like no other! It had become an eerie feeling outside. The sky before and after the eclipse looked an odd color, the temperature had begun to drop, and the wind was calm. The street lights came on and we endured a period of darkness in awe of what was taking place in history. I was blessed to have witnessed this amazing event with my family in the little town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
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!
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!