I’ve logged 2,000 miles in the last two weeks and that’s slowing down a little bit. After the local Veteran’s Day Parade I headed to Lincoln, Arkansas to visit Sherry Smith, the official photographer of Miss Rodeo USA. I arrived on a Wednesday evening after a short 9 hour drive. I only took one wrong turn, but ended up on the Arkansas backroads for about 75 miles. Believe me, I won’t miss that turn again!
Thursday morning we had our final shoot for my reign. That is so crazy to say because I feel like the first was just yesterday! It was bitter cold and bitter sweet. A chilly 40 degrees it was in an old mill where we spent four hours shooting the final sponsored items. My stuff was everywhere and we made it through the cold weather, but not without me letting Sherry know it was cold every few minutes! I know I looked at the thermostat (the mill had been turned into an event center) and it had warmed up to 46 degrees. Sherry did a wonderful job and we had a great final photo shoot!
Afterwards, I headed to Pauls Valley, Oklahoma which was an additional four hours away. No wrong turns were taken this time thankfully! I got settled in for the night and prepared my clothing for a busy Friday in Oklahoma City. Donnie and I headed to the city lights to visit several pageant sponsors. I visited each restaurant sponsor to confirm that the pageant contestants will be eating there in a few short weeks away. Our last restaurant sponsor that we visited just happened to be Charleston’s. We did that on purpose so that we could eat there! We also visited Remington Park where one of our pageant events will be held. It was nice to meet some of the faces that I have been talking to all year!
The following day I was up bright and early to head to Lindsey, OK for the first annual Veteran’s Day Parade and a photo shoot with Jenny. The photos came first and I met Jenny at an adorable country location not far out of town. It was still chilly outside, but not as cold as the last photo shoot with Sherry! We spent about 45 minutes outside and then headed onto the parade. I met our wonderful horse sponsor of 5 Star Quarter Horses where they brought me Cody to ride in the parade. They helped me get my parade ensemble together. The parade started and off I went waving to the crowd. I got to the bulk of where the crowd was and the pavement turned to the brick. My horse didn’t seem to pay attention to the fire truck and police cars sounding off, the mass of people standing everywhere, music playing loud, or even the kids running in the streets, but she DID notice the change in pavement and that was just too much! Cody stopped right there and it took a little patience, motivation, and a staring crowd to get us over to the other side, aka the brick road! The whole town and maybe even the neighboring towns showed up for the parade festivities to honor the Veterans. At the end of the parade the float carrying the local Veterans came by and there was a special program put together for them. It was wonderful to take part in such a great event to honor those who have fought and who are still fighting for our freedom!
Later that evening I visited DJ and Trish and got to ride one of their horses. I enjoyed having a little saddle time and getting to hang out with them! I packed that evening and got ready to head out first thing in the morning back to Kentucky. I arrived home on Sunday and didn’t even have time to unpack before I left Wednesday to Lexington. It was great to be heading to a rodeo in my home state! The All-Region Finals took place this past weekend at Alltech Arena in Lexington. I met up with a sweet lady named Esther who took me around to visit sponsors starting on Thursday. I met her at the Kentucky Horse Park and we kicked off promoting the Bluegrass Rockin’ Rodeo with a radio interview. We had some time to kill and Esther took me around on a golf cart tour of the park. She showed me the Mounted Police barn, the Barn of Fame (as I call it), and a ride around the where the 2010 Equine Olympics were held. At the barn that housed the famous race horses, I met Go for Gin. Gin is a 1994 Kentucy Derby Winner who loved me so much that when I reached out to pet him, he sunk his teeth into my leather IFR jacket! It was so tasty he didn’t let go of that and my arm for about 30 seconds! The little monkey he was! Funny Cide was also in the barn, but I didn’t get an up close and personal greeting like I did from Go for Gin!
We moved on to visit the Bluegrass Stockyards that just opened from remodeling only a two weeks prior to our visit. I got to see the sale barn and promote the rodeo to visitors inside the shops. There is nothing like local Kentucky food so of course, we had to eat at Hayden’s Stockyard Eatery. Only in the bluegrass state where you can find fried chicken on a biscuit with jalapeño pimento cheese!
Our next rodeo promotion event was a table at the Southern Lights 5K stroll! Over 2,300 people showed up for this annual event! I passed out rodeo flyers and signed autographs at a table with the horse park. Next on our busy schedule was a live interview at Alltech arena for ABC 36 news on the Midday Kentucky Show! This was so exciting because we had a whole hour to feature the rodeo. JW Ery, Colt Hartt the rodeo clown, Walker Montgomery, and myself was featured on the show. I was honored to carry the American flag and have an interview on horseback. This was such a fun way to promote our IPRA All-Region Finals!
The first performance of our finals went great! The crowd was a little light due to the UK game because we all bleed blue in Kentucky! Go Cats! But that didn’t stop us from having a great time! Saturday morning I was able to visit the farm where Secretariat is buried at. Clairborne farm is located in Paris, Ky and is the home of the famous racehorse Secretariat. Lindsey, our IPRA social media person, attended with me and we had a blast! We got to see the original paddock where Secretariat was turned out in and his stall! There were several other great racehorses there such as War Front. He is estimated to be worth $80 million and his breeding fee is $250,000. I was just excited that I got to touch him and give him a peppermint! I also got to see the grave of Secretariat and learned all kinds of interesting facts about him! It was a great experience that I will always remember!
Off to an Ariat appearance we went! Thanks to the wonderful Lindsey for setting up a meet and greet at one of only 2 stand alone Ariat stores in the US. Laura and her Ariat team welcomed JW, Cody, and myself for an afternoon of rodeo promotions! There were lots of traffic into the store and we were all privileged to inform the public about the rodeo going on. I really appreciated the kindness of the team and sponsored apparel that they gave us!
Lindsey and I rushed back to the hotel to get ready for the rodeo. It was starting to rain, but thank goodness Alltech is a beautiful indoor arena. It was a steady rain so I grabbed my chaps and rushed into the arena. I had parked in the back along with all the other contestants. I ran in and signed autographs for a while and while doing so, I heard an announcement from Mark. “There is a white car with Kentucky tags that needs to be moved out the back.” I thought Oh, darn, that’s me! I rushed to the back knowing that we all had parked in the fire lane. I turned the corner to see blue lights behind my car. I ran out there and told the officer that I would be glad to move my car! I moved it in the nick of time because he had his ticketing pad and pen out ready to give me a ticket! I skipped out on that one and found many other contestants trying to find elsewhere to park.
My favorite part of the rodeo has always been getting to carry Old Glory. Hedrick Rodeo Company has the most beautiful flag that I had the honor of carrying around the arena. The arena was packed and I took note of all the proud Americans as I carried the flag around the arena. This was the final night where the buckles would be handed out. Thank you to Montana Silversmith for sponsoring the beautiful buckles for the contestants! At the end of the rodeo, the best of the best was representing across all of the IPRA regions. The top 2 of each region came to the finals. Not only was the best contestants there, but the horse park had outstanding musicians contracted for a concert after the rodeo. Friday night was Walker Montgomery, son of John Michael Montgomery. Saturday night was Walker Hayes. Both artists did an awesome job and the crowd loved it! I also liked the fact that I got to meet them both!
Overall, I had a wonderful past two weeks and enjoyed all the new experiences! I am so thankful for the new friends that God has placed in my life. The year may be about over, but I know I will still encounter many more wonderful people and places! Happy Thanksgiving!
If you have been wondering what I have been up to the past two weeks, let me tell you all about it! It’s pageant prep mode around my house! I have been working around the clock to “try” to get ahead on my to do list! Most of the past two weeks have been making my last quarterly call to all the wonderful sponsors and supporters of the Miss Rodeo USA Association. With nearly a hundred sponsors, it takes a little while to get through with everyone. This is certainly a task that I can complete!
With my platform of staying focused, I have had the opportunity to teach it to children, communities, organizations, and many others. It’s imperative that I remember to stay focused myself so that I may accomplish my goals. Also on my to do list is creating my scrapbook that will be on display during the pageant. This task is a big one that’s for sure! Actually, I have been preparing for this project all year. If I had some free time during all my travels, I stopped at the nearest Hobby Lobby to check out their sales on scrapbook supplies. I have been stocking up all year so that when the time came for now, I would have all my materials together. I’ve printed off nearly 500 photos and the year isn’t over yet! Get ready to flip through the pages of my year in January!
Another task that I’m working on is getting together gifts for the pageant, writing down funny stories from the year to tell at the pageant, and writing my final ride speech. All these tasks make reality sit in – that my year is almost over. It seems like yesterday that I was crowned in Oklahoma City and here we are with only a few months left of my reign. I remember Harmony telling me when I won that my year would fly by, don’t blink! I can say that she was definitely right! I look back and wonder where the time went. I am so thankful for all the amazing opportunities, experiences, and people that I have connected with. Forever I will remember this amazing year and time in my life.
This past weekend I was honored to have been asked to participate in Kentucky’s largest Veteran’s Day parade in my hometown of Madisonville, Kentucky. Knowing that this parade is one of the highlights for the community, I spent nearly all day getting my horse (and lastly me) ready to go! I started by brushing the mud off my “old faithful” mare and making my feeding rounds. I got all the mud off and decided that Fancy was still not as clean as I wanted her to be! So it was bath time next. I finally got her satisfactory and went to rush to do my hair and makeup. We arrived at the parade with an hour before start time, which you would think would be plenty of time to get ready. My mom started helping me put the beautiful Gypsy Tails in, set my parade flowers on, and anything else that needed to be done. I just love my mom! And Fancy just LOVED all the things she got to have on (not!) After rushing around it was time to go stand in line for another hour.
As I walked down Main Street, I loved seeing all the smiling faces of everyone. I rode by smiling, waving, and talking to various people. It was such a pleasant feeling to be riding by the people of my own community as the first Miss Rodeo USA to have represented Kentucky in the pageant’s 51 year history. I truly felt blessed to represent such a great town. I would wave all the kids and they would tell me that they remembered me coming to their school. That was over 6 months ago! The kids do pay attention and love a visit from a rodeo queen! A lot of the kids and adults loved the patriotic Hoofies that I had put on my horse! I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard, “oh, look! She painted her horses’ nails!” Little did they know that it only took me 2 minutes to make them look amazing with stickers! As I finished up the parade, it was such a blessing to be one of the many that rode in the parade to honor the Veterans that have fought for our freedom.
The past two weeks have literally been a blast from the past! A couple weeks ago I headed to the college where I graduated from, Murray State University. It was college rodeo week in Murray, Kentucky and lots of events were going on that I didn’t want to miss. Wednesday was the Special Rodeo put on by the MSU Rodeo Team and current queen, Miss Shelby Wright. I arrived bright and early after a couple hour drive to start meeting and greeting my special friends getting off the bus! As the students came in, one by one, Shelby and I talked to each one and gave them an autograph. They also received cowboy hats and bandannas for the fun day ahead!
There were a total of 34 kids ready to learn about rodeo and participate in the events and activities. Several different stations were set up where the students could interact with animals and the MSU Rodeo Team members. I also went around and visited all the stations and took part in the activities with the students. We raced bouncy ponies together, ran barrels together on foot, brushed the horses, and raced to get the ribbons off the goats! There was laughter to be heard and smiles to be seen all day at the expo center!
Muray, KY has lots of great college memories for me, but the one place that I wanted to visit was a bbq place downtown. Bad Bob’s was a restaurant that I didn’t find until my last year in Murray. I became addicted to their bbq sauce and in fact, buy it by the gallon now! When the special rodeo was over, I knew where I wanted to go eat and I am sure you can guess where that was. I grabbed Shelby and said lets go to Bad Bobs! I can’t believe that she had never been there! We also met my first rodeo queen director, Dr. Bellah for lunch. I haven’t seen her in a few years so it was great to all meet up! We walked into Bob’s and I ordered my normal bbq sandwich and then told the cashier I would like to have a gallon of sauce. Every single time, I get the funniest faces from the employees! She said, “you mean you want a whole gallon of mild sauce?” Yes ma’am, I do.
Lunch was wonderful with the MSU Rodeo Queen and director! I enjoyed getting to see the two beautiful ladies, but it was time to get on the road again. I came back a couple days later for the Friday and Saturday night performances of the college rodeo. I was taken back down memory lane as I rode in for a queen lap. It was this rodeo four years ago where I held my first queen title and loped around the arena then as Miss MSU Rodeo Queen. I would have never thought back in 2013 that I would be back in a short four years later as Miss Rodeo USA. DREAMS DO COME TRUE! I am here to tell you that! Never give up and always stay focused and you can achieve anything that you set your mind too!
Both nights I gave out several autographs, helped sell raffle tickets, ran into old friends, took several pictures, and had the best time in Murray. It was wonderful to look up in the audience and see my family sitting there along with about 15 members of my church family that I haven’t seen much of this year! I have the best support system and am so thankful for that!
This past week I headed to South Georgia for the 40th Annual Sunbelt Ag Expo. This year at the expo was a special year because it was the celebration for 40 years of this event in Moultrie, Georgia. I know you’re wondering what the Sunbelt Ag Expo is. This expo is very similar to the National Farm Machinery Show that is held in Louisville, Kentucky every year. The only difference is that it is completely outside and there are lots of GNATS! For those of you that live below the gnat line, I am so very sorry for that! But really, one of the cool parts of this expo is you don’t just look at agricultural equipment; you can go out in the fields and try it out. Everything is on demo either out in the fields or in the expo itself. You can drive the cotton picker or watch how peanuts are harvested, and test out the latest tractors. There are so many things to do for the agricultural enthusiast!
My part in the expo happens to be at the Priefert Horse Arena. As a previous Sunbelt queen, last year I had the wonderful opportunity to attend for the first time and learned how things go. This year I was honored to be back and of course, see my Georgia family! My former director, Cindy Wynn was there and I just love her to pieces! I also got to see many others that make these experiences so worthwhile. Wynn Custom leather was also there so I was able to spend time with JT and of course, thank him for his sponsorship to the Miss Rodeo USA Pageant. I was introduced each morning at the arena and took part in one of Cal Middleton’s equine demonstrations.
On Tuesday morning, I had the opportunity to assist in the ribbon cutting ceremonies to officially open the expo. There were over 150 people present and media such as tv stations from Savannah and local radio stations. Along with director Chip Blalock and many others, I helped with the ribbon cutting for this special year! Shortly after the ribbon cutting it was time for the main event that takes place at the airplane hangar, the Farmer of the Year Luncheon. This luncheon may only be a couple hours, but is something that farmers across 10 states have prepared for all year long. One farmer from each state represented in the Sunbelt region is selected as Farmer of the Year. This prestigious ceremony is a great event that represents all the great things that farmers do.
While standing up front greeting the over 500 people that walked through the doors, a gentleman came up to me and asked if I was from Kentucky. Turns out, that guy was Mr. Tim Thornberry with the Kentucky Farm Bureau magazine that did an article on me earlier this year! I just never know who I am going to run into! I also met two others with him who were also from western Kentucky. As the food was served, I found my way to sit with the other queens and their families. I happened to sit down by three gentlemen who were from Savannah, Georgia. They kept me laughing the entire time! I learned that one puts on the annual IPRA Ottawa Rodeo in Bloomingdale. These gentlemen were a hoot to sit by and I enjoyed talking to them!
Wednesday was a big day for the rodeo queens. Visiting rodeo royalty came to be introduced in the morning demonstrations. Every queen wore pink for Tough Enough to Wear Pink day! I proudly wore my Maid of the West Ranch Wear pink shirt! I was able to walk around a little bit and ended up in the Georgia Farm Bureau booth where I found the Georgia Grown shirt that was unveiled at the ribbon cutting the day before. This shirt was displayed in front a sign that read “our dirt grew your shirt” and was made 100% in Georgia. It was also screen printed by an agency with Georgia Department of the Blind and I think it’s wonderful that they partnered with this project. 38,000 t-shirts were made from 56 bales of cotton from Georgia.
I can’t believe I almost forgot to tell you about my adventures on the cotton picker! While in Georgia, I knew that I needed to get the complete Georgia Grown experience! Thanks to a dear friend, the Wheeler family for taking me to their farm for a ride on the cotton picker! I hopped on the picker with their farm hand to see how the machine works. I thought it was so neat, but of course very similar to the combine that I used to ride with my granddad when I was a kid. Each cotton bale wrapped in the field weighed 6,000 pounds! That can make a lot of t-shirts!
Thursday was the last day of the expo and I woke up with intentions of trying to find the grilled PB&J that I had been hearing about for the last few days. Being as Georgia is a major producer of peanuts, they know all about what peanuts can make! After a short golf cart ride, I found the Georgia Peanut Commission booth where the grilled PB&J were. One bite and I knew I was addicted! This new recipe is now one of my favorites and one that I will carry with me forever. After my PB&J breakfast, I headed back to the arena to be introduced to the crowd before the last Cal Middleton equine demonstration. At the end of the day, it was time to say my goodbyes to all of my Georgia family. I never knew that I would have made friends that are pretty much family to me all the way down in South Georgia. As we drive away from the 40th Annual Sunbelt Ag expo, I realize how cotton pickin’ blessed I am.
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!