Today, is the last day of 2017. A day that I first thought was so far away. They said don’t blink, or you will miss it. When I was crowned in January of this year, there was so much to do and be involved in. December seemed so far away when I had so many things to look forward too. And now that 2017 is almost over, let me share a few of my favorite stories and memories from this incredible year representing the International Professional Rodeo Association.
I’m not sure if I could pick a favorite rodeo of the year, but I sure enjoyed my time in Brunswick, GA for Rodeo at the Beach! This rodeo was put on by the Exchange Club of Brunswick, an organization that I enjoyed learning about how they do so much for others. I remember Joe O’Connor and his wife picking me up at the airport at 1 in the morning because my flight had been delayed. Steven Floyd made sure that I didn’t leave South Georgia without trying boiled peanuts (yuck!) and REAL southern fried shrimp. Apparently, the shrimp was the best I would ever eat; I thought they were O.K. with honey mustard. John and Charlene Franklin took me to the local airshow where I saw the Blue Angels perform, talked aviation with fellow aviators, and saw the Trump plane. Pat Browning brought me back to the airport to take a walk inside a famous designer’s airplane, one in which I will never see the same thing again! I met the Hedrick’s and the Georgia biting gnats at the same time when I stopped by to help unload the stock. I topped of the week with a horse ride on the beach on Indiana Jones on a private island.
Another highlight of my year was getting to help Danny move stock to the next rodeo. I threw on a ball cap instead of my hat and crown and met Danny at the arena in Statesboro. They loaded the stock and I drove off following Danny in the freightliner and bull trailer. It took us an hour and half to get to where the stock would stay the night. We pulled up and I remember asking Danny if he wanted to me to back up to the gate where he was looking. He didn’t know yet that I grew up helping my Dad move with the same equipment. I backed the trailer up and Danny figured out that I may have done that before! I remember meeting one of the sweetest couples at the arena we dropped the stock off at. This is still one of my favorite stories to tell!
I can’t forget riding around in the little red wagon with Bill Anderson for the Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo. I had a week in Statesboro and they had my schedule PACKED! Any spare time we were whipping the little red car into spur of the moment sponsor visits. This is where I met Freedom, the Bald Eagle that flies at Georgia Southern University. I had a blast with the ladies in the Kiwanis club, especially Ashley! In fact, her number in my phone is “Ashley – Statesboro”. I may or may not have a lot of number from this year saved with what rodeo they are a part of!
And then there’s Evans, Georgia. Oh, how I loved this one and the people it brought me closer too. David and Wendy Speight were my host’s for this one and the crew that put on the rodeo to benefit the Burn Unit at the hospital they worked at. I had such a humbling experience at the Ronald McDonald house with Wendy. Both David and Wendy took me through the burn unit to meet a few of their patients and coworkers. I rode a camel for the first time at the rodeo and watched it drink a mountain dew. I about lost my eyelashes riding a motorcycle down the road while holding my hat and crown. I met the Speight family and had a blast shooting an AR for the first time. They said beavers were a problem there, so I tried to help with that!
During my time in Oklahoma, I learned to dance with Allie Burgin at the Wynnewood Senior Citizen Center. This became an event every Wednesday night when I was in town! I ate too many dozen chocolate chip cookies to count at Donnie’s. I hung out with Trisha and DJ at their ranch. I only missed the Wynewood exit once and ended up driving a good hour to get back.
I visited Las Vegas for the first time on Mother’s Day Weekend with my mom by my side. This is also where I used Uber for the first time. Later in the year, I was able to go back to Vegas for the NFR and Cowboy Christmas. Mom and I had a great time together on both of our trips to Vegas.
Decatur, Alabama brought some flying fun with Mary Ashley! Her mom arranged for us to fly in the police helicopter. I remember taking off my crown and putting on the headphones, departing the Cullman Airport and viewing Alabama. We dipped down into a river and flew around the curves and turns like we were in a racing movie, all to the sound of Hotel California playing through the headset. The pilot let me fly the helicopter for a few seconds too. This flying adventure I will not forget!
How could I forget Australia?! I made lifelong friends Sharon and Carl Piggott, director of the Rodeo Queen of Australia Quest. Had a blast with Bessie and the queen contestants for a whole week in the Gold Coast. Learned the Aussie slang and how to drive on the wrong side of the road. Stayed at the Wrangah Wildnerness Lodge and gained an unforgettable Australian experience. Went on a hunting trip with mom, dad, Carl, and some of their family. This was a pretty big highlight of the year!
All-region finals in Lexington, Kentucky was a great event in my home state. I met Esther, staff of the horse park, and she took me around to the different events. I got to room with Lindsey and we toured the Clairborne Farm to see Secretariat’s grave. I carried the greatest flag on earth around the Alltech arena. Met our family friends, Denny and Joanne at the rodeo along with a Walker Hayes and Walker Montgomery artists.
This is just a few of my great experiences that I have had throughout 2017. We would be here forever if I went through every memory that I have had this year! As this year comes to a close, I am so thankful for all the great people that I have met, memories I have made, horses I have rode, and friends that have become family. It’s New Year’s Eve and I will be looking forward to my time in OKC promoting the IFR and a great MRUSA pageant in 2018.
Tis’ the season for Christmas parades and joyful bells to your ears! The last few weeks I have truly felt the joy of Christmas season! Christmas lights went up for many across the world and for our wonderful community of Madisonville. I have participated in several local parades and decked out my beautiful quarter horse in her Gypsy Tails, Hoofies, and Twister Saddle. I hauled to three parades and waved to all the community. At one parade, the kids were so excited when I rode by! I mean, jumping up and down, yelling, and grinning from ear to ear! I first thought that by the time I rode by at the end of the parade, they had eaten all of their candy and were bouncing off the sugar. But then the reality set in that I was following a character that I’m pretty sure I can’t top, Santa. Santa rode just ahead of me and the kids carried their excitement through the rest of the parade.
I attended another parade in a town about 45 minutes away with the beautiful Miss Murray State Rodeo Queen, Shelby Wright. We toughed out the cold and made it through the parade in Princeton, Ky with a smile frozen on our face! To our surprise, there was quite the crowd that still showed up for the most wonderful time of the year.
During my time at home, I have stayed certainly busy with events every week. My goal has always been to get out in the community and talk about the western way of life and the IPRA. I did just that with another radio interview. I met for the Coalfield Comments show in Madisonville. This show has quite the history and has been going on for many years! Coal lies deep within our area of western Kentucky so it is only fitting to have a talk show called Coalfield Comments. I met my host and we talked for 30 minutes about what my job is as Miss Rodeo USA, the IPRA, and the upcoming 2018 pageant. It was great getting to inform others in my community about our western way of life.
This year has been nothing but an amazing experience and wonderful opportunity. As if riding horses on the beach and traveling internationally wasn’t enough, I got to cross of another item on my bucket list. I was able to attend Round 6 of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo! I have always been captivated by the NFR and loved to watch it and follow the contestants every year. But this year it was awesome to get to watch the contestants compete in THE Thomas and Mack! Everyone clearly brings their A game and you better not blink or you’re going to miss that 3 second Steer Wrestling run!
Since it was my first time to the NFR, it was also my first time to get to walk through Cowboy Christmas! Where do you even start?! The first day that I arrived in Vegas, I dropped off my bags at MGM and this sweet lady walked over and I instantly recognized her as Sherry from Pawnee, OK! Next, I basically ran over to Sands with only an hour to spare before the booths close! I met the sweet Ginger with Basin Tack Company, a wonderful sponsor that we are proud to have! I spent a little time with her and then visited Grant’s Leather to meet the wonderful couple who has had that business for years. Lastly, I walked by and looked back to see Jenna in the Whipin’ Wild Rags booth! I met the owner and she so graciously sponsored a wild rag for me! If you don’t know who they are, check them out on social media!
I spent one whole day (too bad I didn’t have two) at the Las Vegas Convention center going through two floors of Cowboy Christmas! I absolutely loved running into so many fans, friends, and sponsors! I finally got to meet Sarah with Rhinestone Lipgloss at her booth! Sarah so generously provided me with a stunning set of earrings! I have seriously worn them all the time! I also had the chance to meet Mr. Keith Mundee with American Hat Company and thank him again for his wonderful sponsorship! While checking out the Ariat booth, I ran into the sweet Joselyn that I met back in March in Texas! It truly was great to connect with so many people!
Our flight took us back to Kentucky and that’s a wrap on my last two weeks. As I am finishing this post, I still can’t believe that Christmas is seriously right around the corner. I’m talking 9 days away! And you all know what follows that, the 2018 pageant! In fact, the contestant’s headshots were just posted a few days ago and the excitement is so real!
I left you all with Happy Thanksgiving as my last blog left off just a few days before turkey day! November is such a wonderful month and the start of many family celebrations for the holidays. I certainly was glad to be given another Thanksgiving here on this earth. I think too often we take for granted for just being here another day to spend with family and friends. We get all wrapped up in our daily lives, work, never ending to-do lists, and forget to be thankful for all the little things in life. This year, I have so many things to be thankful for. I’m thankful that God blessed me with this wonderful opportunity of a lifetime and gave me the people in my life that He knew would help me along the way. I am thankful to represent the western way of life and the sport of professional rodeo with the IPRA. I can’t thank my parents and my awesome brother enough for their support not only through this year, but for throughout my life.
I also am very thankful for the farmers. Growing up in a small farming community, it was more likely that you followed a combine down the two lane road then a horse trailer. Harvest time was from dawn to dusk and farmers would greet one another in the early hours of the morning at our local Downtown Market (the only place for food) in Slaughters. It was corn mazes, pumpkin pickin’, and sweet tea for the holidays. I am thankful for the farmers that work endless hours to feed the world. I’m thankful for the cotton grown in South Georgia that helps clothe the world, the chicken farmers that help feed the world in Alabama, and the row crop farmers in Kentucky that make sure we have corn, bread, and beans. I say all this to tell you that I attended the 43rd Annual Hopkins County Farm City Breakfast the day before Thanksgiving this year in honor of the farmers.
The Farm City Breakfast is an event that is held annually to honor a farm family of the year and present to the county the yield winners. This event had over 300 people in attendance and also recognized the accomplishments of the youth in our county through 4-H and FFA organizations. Walking in the door at 6 AM this year was an honor to be with several of the farmers that help feed our world. Last year, I attended this event as Miss Sunbelt Rodeo and would have never thought that I would be back as Miss Rodeo USA the following year. I greeted farmers, Hopkins County Officials, and members of the community at the doors. It was wonderful to see familiar faces and meet new people in my county.
After the morning breakfast, I met with the Slaughters Mayor for a sign dedication downtown. I walked into the Slaughter business office to find my autograph picture hanging on the wall with my reception invite from February of this year. I had no idea that was even there! Slaughters has three signs placed at different entrances into our town that say “Welcome to Slaughters, Kentucky”. Through the support of our town officials and Mayor, I now have a sign underneath it that says, “Home of the 2017 Miss Rodeo USA Brittany Howard”. This is truly an honor and I am so thankful for the support that my town of 250 people has given me!
Turkey day for me was helping my mom cook Thanksgiving dinner and enjoying the beautiful 60 degree weather! For the last several years, Mom and I have made it a tradition to go for a little trail ride around the house. I saddled up my horse (is this real life?!) and then saddled my mom’s horse for a sunny ride around the farm. Never take for granted getting to spend time with your mom! I enjoyed every minute of our ride and look forward to many more with her!
Middle of the week I was fortunate to do a 30 minute interview with the local cable TV show called Focus with Tim Thomas. We met in front of the green screen and started filming one of their Christmas editions. It was a great interview with Mr. Thomas and I am proud to be from Hopkins County, Kentucky. It was also ironic that almost 17 years ago, my mom did an interview with Mr. Thomas for her job position. Things have come full circle and who would have thought that I, her daughter, would be back doing an interview 17 years later! In my interview, I strived to inform people about the IPRA and what Miss Rodeo USA is. I also discussed my platform and a few of the fun things that I have been blessed to take part in this year.
As we enter into the spirit of Christmas in December, there are so many events to take part in. I hauled my horse to a neighboring town to ride in their Christmas parade. It was a blessing to see so many little ones and adults taking a moment out of their busy lives to enjoy the parade. I loaded Fancy and moved on to our Madisonville Parade at night. Fancy was decked out in her sparkling green hoofies, red bows, and Christmas lights! I wore my beautiful blue Kristi Q with the patriotic Wynn Custom Leather Chaps. Thanks to the many sponsors who make my everyday outfits!
The last two weeks have been fun and things are only going to get more exciting as we near the end of my reign. I have a to-do list that I work on everyday so that I can continue to stay focused! Many thanks to all of the supporters, friends, sponsors, family, and team that it takes for this wonderful 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!