I had been looking forward to the Knott County Trail Ride ever since I learned about it in the spring of this year. Back in May, I visited Eastern Kentucky for a few days to promote their first rodeo in Knott County at the spring trail ride. I visited six schools in 2 days and did lots of marketing for their rodeo. This is when I met the wonderful people that reside in Hindman and the surrounding area. During this time, I also visited a sponsor that happened to be a nursing home. The residents and staff loved the day I was there and had “rodeo day”. Little did I know that Knott County appreciated my visit so much that they would have me come back in the fall.
That’s exactly what the Knott County Tourism Committee did; they booked me to come to their fall trail ride. I spent a few days prepping for the event by packing the horse trailer with feed, hay, and camping essentials. Making sure I had everything for my horses, queen attire, and food of course! This event allowed me to bring my own two horses and I was so excited for that! I quickly realized in the time that I had been packing, was that I had forgotten what it was like to pack up your horse along with your own belongings. I sure have missed that! It reminded me of my college rodeo days! Everything was put in the trailer and well organized. You know, that always happens when I pack but for some reason, it never goes back in the trailer that way, oops!
My alarm went off at 3:30 am on a Thursday morning and I rolled out of bed, did my makeup and hair, and had the horses loaded by 5 am. I say horses because I was super thankful and excited that my mom got to go on this trip and so I brought along old faithful for her. I set the GPS (because I am awful at directions, even at this late in the game) and headed East 5 hours across the state of Kentucky. It was such a pretty drive and became even better when we got halfway to Hazard. The trees were turning colors more and the mountains looked beautiful. The scenery just made you take it all in and I felt so thankful to be able to live this life and get to spend time with my horses and mom this weekend while I promoted the rodeo.
As the GPS ETA time was nearing, the roads were getting narrower. I turned off on a typical Eastern Kentucky road that winded around a mountain and then turned onto a 3 mile dirt road. Some of the turns were so tight that I wondered how tractor trailers even made it! Within about 30 minutes on the dirt road traveling 10 mph, I finally made it to the gatehouse at Mine-Made Adventure Park. I quickly found a familiar face from the spring and was warmly welcomed to the Knott County Trail Ride! Danny, member of the tourism commission, previously took me around to all of the events in the spring. He showed me where I was to park with the spot that he saved just for me! Upon arrival, I couldn’t believe that amount of horses, trailers, and campers that were already there. At that day they said they had 1600 people so far and they weren’t done coming yet! An overall count done on Saturday totaled over 4,000!
The talk had been that this trail ride was quite a large event, but I sure didn’t know how big until I arrived. You could see trailers parked for what seemed like all across the mountain and they were packed in as tight as they could be. As I drove by to my spot, everyone had their “homes” set up for the week and even included fall and Halloween decorations! Back in the spring, they held their first IPRA rodeo at the trail ride and everyone who passed through the gate was given a ticket to the rodeo. This time in the fall, there was no rodeo, but there were plenty of people there for one! After I settled my ponies (and my Mom) in, I took off with Danny and met other people that I missed from the spring. Everyone was so friendly and so happy that I was back! It was such a great feeling! After doing some promotion type work and talking to many folks, I headed back to my trailer for the night. It was wonderful to have my horses out my window again and have a different experience to remember for this event. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention – upon arrival and getting settled in, Danny brought over no bake cookies for me! Last spring we wanted to stop by this local Amish store because he said that they had the best no bake oatmeal cookies! They were closed when we stopped by and he surprised me with them Thursday!
It was advertised on social media that I was going to be in attendance and would be riding the trails with the guests. I saddled up my horse and took off around camp to meet new people and encourage them all to come back for the spring rodeo. Just by taking a few hours and talking to everyone who inquired what I was there for, I met so many wonderful folks! I took a short trail ride with a few of the people I met and then continued on with other events throughout the day.
Saturday is when the major events were happening. The concert headliner, Craig Morgan was coming to town, along with Taylor Short and Halfway to Hazard. It wasn’t long before I looked up and saw Craig Morgan’s semi parked by the stage. All I could think was I’m sure that truck driver did not like the roads he had to take to get here! The evening rolled around and it was time to do a balloon release in honor of Troy Gentry. Earlier in the year, Montgomery Gentry was booked and confirmed to perform at this trail ride. Due to the unexpected tragedy, their performance was cancelled. It was only fitting that a balloon releasing ceremony be held and the fans wore their batman shirts in honor of Troy as well – since he loved batman. I handed out balloons and met a little boy that will forever hold a spot in my heart. This sweet little boy was special needs, but he loved the balloon that I gave him. I told him to stay right there with his mom and I would be back with a picture for him. I signed both him and his brother an autograph and watched as they both smiled. It is moments like these that I love and will forever cherish. I don’t even know the little boys name, but I know that he is one of God’s angels and will grow up with such a big heart.
The tourism commission puts on the whole trail ride and organizes everything including the music artists. Perks of Danny’s job was getting to hang around back stage. This proved beneficial to me as well, because I got to hang around with Danny! We had the opportunity to talk to a few members of Craig’s band and then I got to meet Craig and get a photo with him! Later on, I helped present the best campsite awards and then get to listen to the concert. Taylor Short, a resident of Knott County opened the festivities. She was followed by the band Halfway to Hazard. If you haven’t heard of them, I suggest you look them up! I enjoyed their music and would definitely listen to it again. Finally, it was time for Craig Morgan! He put on a really good show and the crowd loved it!
Sunday brought rain and a morning full of saying goodbyes and packing. Thank goodness my mom was there to help because that made things a lot faster in the rain. I was soaked from head to toe, but it was all worth it! My horses were loaded up again and the trailer packed, it wasn’t quite as organized as the ride there this time. Westbound was our trail and we left all of the beautiful mountain scenery for the smaller, rolling hills of Kentucky.
Overall, this trip was one of my most memorable experiences of my year. What I remember most is how friendly the people were at this event. Even on the trail ride, almost every person that you rode by would smile, say hello, and ask how you were doing. This simple act of kindness goes so far and I will forever remember what I call one of the friendliest towns on earth, Knott County. It might have been goodbye, but I look forward to traveling east again next year to come back to the annual event! For now, I am off to more rodeos of the season and continued appearances!
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!